PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – As April 3 marks the final week of public testimony for a proposed toll on Interstate 205, Oregon City Mayor Denyse McGriff is speaking out against the proposal and says her concerns are not being heard by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

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.

City and county leaders from Tualatin, West Linn and Oregon City say they haven’t seen any plan for how ODOT is going to try and stop drivers from getting off before the toll points and clogging up local roads from Highway 43, Stafford Road, Willamette Falls Drive and downtown Oregon City.

A map showing the proposed tolling section on I-205 from ODOT, January 23, 2023 (ODOT)
A map showing the proposed tolling section on I-205 from ODOT, January 23, 2023 (ODOT)

“The city of Oregon City, and our neighbor West Linn, have been very much opposed to this proposal. Primarily, because we don’t want Oregon city or West Linn to jumpstart or be the guinea pig for this project,” Mayor McGriff said. “They’re planning on rolling out the toll first in our communities and then a year later, working on other parts of the toll proposal and we are strongly opposed to that.”

The mayor says her concerns are “unequivocally” not being heard by ODOT.

“They are trying to help us understand what they’re doing, but they’re not really listening. Part of the problem is that we have been communicating with our partners at ODOT for over four years, letter, after letter, after letter,” McGriff said adding that letters and in-person communication “have really gone nowhere.”

“We are now talking to the legislators in our jurisdiction, and they generally agree with us about the fact we need to really take a hard look at why they’re doing what they’re doing. We’re concerned about the fact we’ve not received answers to very tough engineering-type questions,” McGriff said.

The mayor added, “I will say, they are trying but it really isn’t working as well as we would like. Communication is a two-way street. We’ve been doing lots and lots and lots of input but we’re not really getting a lot of replies.”

McGriff says Oregon City already has traffic diversion in its jurisdictions.

“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.

West Linn interim mayor Rory Bialostosky previously told KOIN 6 News his concerns are not being heard by ODOT and is asking for more transparency on the tolling impact.

“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 said.

ODOT’s director previously admitted his agency does need to provide details and that they’re still putting together their impact studies.

ODOT is also on record saying the tolling would start even before a third lane on I-205 at the Abernathy Bridge is built, another reason congestion wouldn’t ease up unless drivers opt out of paying the toll by cutting through communities.