Ley to OTC – “It’s about vehicle capacity”

Fighting ODOT’s outrageous TOLLING proposal

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.