The Board of County Commissioners appreciates Governor Tina Kotek and Legislative leadership hearing our concerns and taking action to pause toll collections until 2026 and create a new subcommittee to oversee the work of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT). This pause is a direct response to efforts led by Clackamas County to shine a light on ODOT’s inadequate process and unacceptable proposal.
“Tuesday’s decision by the Governor validates the feedback from residents and local jurisdictions that ODOT’s efforts to implement tolling are moving too fast, create too many questions that could not—or would not—be answered, and have too little oversight,” said Chair Tootie Smith.
For years, jurisdictions along the proposed I-205 Toll Corridor have expressed concerns with the current proposal to implement tolling to fund the repair of the two-lane bottleneck between Stafford Road and the Abernethy Bridge. The county led an effort with other local agencies to respond to ODOT’s draft Environmental Assessment, which highlighted how the current proposal would not decrease diversion or improve safety for local communities.
“This pause could not come at a better time. We appreciate Governor Kotek, Senate President Wagner, Speaker Rayfield, Representative Neron, Representative Walters, Representative Hartman, and many other legislators for hearing our concerns and allowing more time and thought to be put into the process,” said Commissioner Martha Schrader.
The bottleneck on I-205 has been a leading cause of diversion into local communities for over a decade, and a primary cause of angst has been that tolling will send more drivers into local communities to avoid the tolls.
“Safety in our communities is a top priority and the primary reason we supported the 205 bottleneck repair project in 2017. Traffic diversion in our neighborhoods caused by ODOT’s I-205 bottleneck is unacceptable, tolling will only exacerbate diversion. We applaud the pause and stand ready to collaborate with the subcommittee in identifying solutions that work for communities,” said Commissioner Paul Savas.
According to ODOT, the bottleneck on I-205 causes 14 hours of congestion per day, but there remains little to no alternative for drivers that may not be able to afford tolling. Additionally, ODOT’s own traffic modeling has shown that congestion relief would not occur until many years after tolls are implemented, and even then, the relief would only be on I-205 and not neighborhood streets.
“The legislature initiated tolling and has the power to slow or change it. This is a step in the right direction. The county will continue our leadership and advocacy to ensure transportation projects are funded in ways the community supports,” said Commissioner Mark Shull.
Community members have been vocal at all levels of government, noting their angst about the potential of tolling. Many have shared that ODOT was not listening, and that proposed mitigations would not address the impacts from drivers trying to get around tolls. The County has many questions about the newly-formed Subcommittee and hopes to see local jurisdictions, residents, business owners, freight representatives, transit providers, transportation experts, and others included at the table.
“I’m glad Clackamas County has been spearheading this conversation about tolling and partnering closely with Oregon City, West Linn, Lake Oswego, and other cities. Our comments on the draft Environmental Assessment show the shortcomings of ODOT’s work, were a catalyst for this action by the governor and legislature, and underscore how impactful this project would be on neighborhoods and businesses,” said Commissioner Ben West.