Gov. Jay Inslee says he wants to ensure our “voices are heard” regarding Oregon’s outrageous tolling scheme on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. (Here). Oregon did hear many voices from Southwest Washington citizens, then promptly ignored them. Inslee’s words are wimpy and meaningless.
I want a real leader, one who will fight Oregon’s pocket-picking scheme. Tolling all lanes of the two interstate freeways is a “war on the poor,” as citizen Steven Wallace told the county council. Oregon is adding no new through lanes to either interstate. New vehicle capacity is the only real solution to relieve the nation’s 12th-worst traffic congestion.
If approved, Oregon would be the only location in the nation to toll all lanes of an interstate freeway without adding new capacity. Existing lanes are already paid for. This is simply a money grab.
Tolling is hugely inefficient for raising transportation dollars. In Seattle, on Interstate 405, 35 percent of tolls go to the cost of collection. On Interstate 66 in Virginia, fully half the tolls go to collection costs. That’s outrageous.
In the past two years, Washington citizens paid over $600 million in Oregon income taxes. We’re paying more than our “fair share.” We need real leadership fighting for Washington citizens’ interests, not wimpy words.
Is it time for a new state transportation agency? WSDOT says they can’t solve traffic congestion.
KVI‘s John Carlson reveals a great deal about Seattle’s traffic congestion and why it has the 10th worst traffic congestion in the nation. They say they can’t (or won’t try) to fix the problem.
John Carlson explains how WSDOT got the legislature to approve TOLLS on I-405, including eliminating 2-person car pools from being able to drive in the HOV lanes. This ADDED to the traffic congestion in the other, general purpose lanes of I-405.
WSDOT was supposed to build a new general purpose lane on I-405 to relieve traffic congestion. Instead, Carlson says WSDOT found a way to make money — it’s “larceny” says Carlson.
WSDOT says our gas tax is too low. John Carlson points out that Washington has the 2nd HIGHEST gas tax in the nation.
He reveals that bicycling in Seattle is DOWN for the past 3 years, and more.
Start listening at the 3:35 minute mark, and go thru 15:58.
More and bigger highways won’t cure Washington state’s growing traffic woes and preventing congestion is an impossible goal from a financial standpoint.
That gloomy assessment comes from Roger Millar, the head of the state Department of Transportation, according to a report in the AASHTO Journalpublished by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
At a meeting of the association last week, Millar said building more highways “isn’t the answer,” and congestion “is a problem we simply cannot solve.”
Incredibly, WSDOT Secretary Millar attempts to blame affordable housing. How incredibly sad.
He says burgeoning traffic on the state’s roads is actually a symptom of a much bigger problem – that people can’t afford to live where they work, so they spend hours on the road in vehicles that many times are not in very good condition.
“Washington state family after Washington family keeps finding out that the only house they can afford is miles away from where they work,” he said.
His job isn’t HUD Secretary. “Affordable housing” is much more often caused by government over regulation, development rules and costs that are too high, and our state’s Growth Management Act and improper imposition of Urban Growth Boundaries. But in the Seattle area, it’s also due to the unprecedented success of Amazon that has added roughly 50,000 jobs in the Seattle area.
Citizens need a Transportation Secretary who will work to ADD new vehicle capacity, working to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety on our roads.
SW WA citizens will find no “value” in TOLLING proposal
My letter to the editor published in the July 2nd issue of The Reflector.
A review of the past eight months of Oregon’s “Value Pricing” Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) should begin and end with the question — “where’s the value?”
Oregon’s house bill HB 2017 created the possibility of tolling, beginning with I-5 and I-205, but expanding to other state roads as well. It was introduced in the spring of 2017 and passed into law in July. Our own Regional Transportation Council (RTC) refused to engage on behalf of Southwest Washington taxpayers. The Clark County Council was the only government body expressing strong concerns about the tolling.
Portland has the 12th worst traffic congestion in the nation. It has 35 bottlenecks. I-5 is congested over 15 ½ hours a day; I-205 congested over 12 hours a day according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The Rose Quarter has the highest accident rate in Oregon, besides being the major bottleneck for regional transportation. ODOT still hasn’t told us how their proposal will fix all these problems.
Why do we have so much traffic congestion? It’s simple. Oregon refused to build new vehicle capacity and transportation corridors for the past four decades. Yet regional population has doubled.
Oregon’s HB 2017 said the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) will submit a tolling proposal to the Federal Highway Administration. It was required to focus on I-5 and I-205. There was no requirement to add vehicle capacity or build anything. It was simply a mechanism to raise money. None of the $5.3 billion package of transportation projects relied on tolls.
The “Value Pricing” PAC was created by ODOT to evaluate the various issues and make a recommendation to the OTC. Two members of the OTC co-chaired the PAC. Very quickly, it became apparent the ODOT staff and their paid consultants were in charge, rather than the PAC members.
Eight “options” were introduced with surface level evaluations of impacts (positively or negatively) on traffic congestion, tolling revenue, and traffic diversion. One, Option 4, clearly had the most favorable impact on traffic congestion, with the least amount of diversion. ODOT staff rejected this option due to its “astronomical cost” which was not disclosed.
Two big questions remain. Will the OTC choose a project that actually builds new vehicle capacity, with tolling revenues, or will they simply create a new “transportation” slush fund to be divvied up later by bike and mass transit interests?
While not optimistic, I hope the five members of the OTC act on the fact that we have the 12th worse traffic congestion in the nation because they have refused to add vehicle capacity. I would hope they choose to spend the tolling dollars to add vehicle capacity.
The second question is will the federal government approve any request that does not add vehicle capacity? Oregon could be the first and only place in the nation, to request tolling on an existing, paid for, interstate highway, and add no new lanes and vehicle capacity.
Let’s hope the federal highway administration, under President Trump, says “no” to any project that does not add legitimate new vehicle capacity.
Oregon’s HB 2017 set in motion a process to TOLL both I-5 and I-205 “at the border” with Washington, down to the merge of the two near Wilsonville. A 25-member “Value Pricing” Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) was created to evaluate option and make recommendations to the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC). It will be the OTC that makes the final choices.
At the May OTC meeting, I was permitted 3 minutes of citizen comments.
ODOT staff controlling the process
Having attended all but one of the five “Value Pricing” PAC meetings, I have witnessed the ODOT staff, rather than the 25-member committee controlling the process. Sadly, this committee appears to be nothing but eye-wash for what’s really happening. At the April PAC meeting, my planned 3 minutes of comments were reduced by staff to just 90 seconds.
What ODOT isn’t telling citizens
There is a great deal that should be part of a legitimate discussion regarding traffic congestion, TOLLING, and what other cities and states have done. Sadly, ODOT staff aren’t telling citizens the whole story.
In almost all other examples of TOLLING, the cities or states have ADDED new lanes and vehicle capacity. It’s the added capacity that helps relieve the traffic congestion. In most cases, they only TOLL the “new lanes”, allowing drivers to pay the cost of the new capacity. Everyone benefits.
Here’s a great piece laying out the details in Clark County Today. Click here.
The camel’s nose into the tent
At the May “Value Pricing” PAC meeting, the ODOT staff reduced the various options and recommendations down to one. Option B, if approved by the OTC, will only TOLL I-5 from Going St. on the north end, through the Rose Quarter, down to Multnomah Blvd. on the south end.
Some citizens may be breathing a sigh of relief. They can divert to avoid the tolls. What you need to understand is that this recommendation is “just a test”. The ODOT staff hope to expand the TOLLS after an undetermined time frame, to the rest of “the system”. It’s just getting “the camel’s nose into the tent”, so they can get the rest of the camel (tolls) imposed later. In fact ODOT Regional Manager Ryan Windsheimer asked the PAC to expand the TOLLING consideration beyond just I-5 and I-205 to all other highways in the Portland area.
Incredibly, at the May PAC meeting, the ODOT staff proposed eliminating two options from further consideration, including one that would have added capacity on I-205 between the Abernethy Bridge and Stafford Rd. They had earlier told the PAC members they would NOT be allowed to vote on proposals (in response to my comments are the previous meeting).
From a Clark County Today news report: “The Advisory Committee clearly has no consensus about which direction they should go, but were reminded multiple times during the meeting that they are not a voting panel, and consensus wasn’t needed in order to move forward,’’ Brown wrote.”
BUT, in an incredible turn of events, the staffer later asked the PAC members for a “thumbs up” to approve the removal of the two options. From the audience, I could only see about three PAC members raise their thumbs. A clear minority of the 25 PAC members; but I couldn’t seen the full table.
I later asked a PAC member if they had seen “how many” thumbs went up. The response confirmed my observation. Only about “three to six” thumbs went up. An overwhelming MINORITY of the 25 member PAC. And yet, the staff went ahead and eliminated the two options from further consideration.
Without adding any new vehicle capacity, any TOLLING is simply a money grab. Sadly, the ODOT bureaucracy is in charge.