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West Linn mayor concerned as Oregon moves forward with I-205 tolling plans

By Michaela BourgeoisKen BoddieEmily Burris,

2023-06-05

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PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) – While Oregon has delayed its roll out of Interstate 205 tolling, West Linn Mayor Rory Bialostosky is continuing to speak out against the provision in hopes local government will be involved in the process.

Through an executive order, Governor Tina Kotek delayed tolling in Oregon — including I-205 — until January 2026 amid concerns among community members about traffic mitigation and financial burden on commuters.

The plan is to put tolling in place by December 2024 on a section of I-205 between the Tualatin River Bridge and the Abernathy Bridge between the interstate’s Stafford Road and Highway 213 exits. The big picture is a plan to toll all of I-205 and a stretch of Interstate 5 in the metro area.

Kotek’s executive order also directs a special subcommittee to oversee ODOT’s ongoing tolling project with the intention of addressing concerns proposed by residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed tollway, like public safety, traffic mitigation, pollution and economic impact.

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Bialostosky hopes local government officials will be involved in the subcommittee and wants to see the committee prove that tolling is the best option to fund transportation projects.

“Overall, you just want to see if tolling really is the best way to move forward because I don’t really think it’s a fair and economical approach to transportation project funding because of huge administrative overhead costs and disproportionally impacting a couple of communities to pay for state-wide infrastructure projects, a freeway infrastructure project that benefits the whole community, the whole state,” Bialostosky said.

“We all want good transportation, good roads and funding there — we understand there’s a shortfall — but we don’t know if tolling is the right way because it’s a regressive tax. It hurts people who are not making ends meet the most,” Bialostosky explained.

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The mayor previously called out the Oregon Department of Transportation for it’s lack of planning ahead of tolling.

“The consistent response from ODOT has been ‘we’re just going to monitor what happens and then we’ll mitigate as we go.’ But as I always say, government can move pretty slowly, so we’re not really satisfied with the wait and see approach when it comes to our local neighborhoods and business districts potentially being extremely negatively impacted,” Bialostosky told KOIN 6 News in January.

Additionally, the Oregon City Mayor Denyse McGriff told KOIN 6 News in April that her concerns for tolling were “unequivocally” unheard by ODOT .

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“What’s not being acknowledged is the increased burden that diversion will cause on our jurisdictions. We have local streets; they’re not designed to take that type of traffic and we’ve been told that the proposal only deals with the regional system. It’s not concerned about the local streets,” McGriff stated.

In May, ODOT acknowledged that some community members felt unheard throughout the process.

“During the last six years, ODOT has been working to stand up a toll program,” ODOT Director Kris Strickler said. “Implementing a modern toll program, for the first time in Oregon, requires extensive planning and community engagement. We understand our drive to meet legislative intent to implement tolling quickly left communities and elected officials feeling unheard.”

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