ODOT committee discusses priorities for I-205 toll project

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Transportation officials met Wednesday night to discuss plans for the potential tolling of Interstate 205 in the Portland metro.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is considering adding tolls on the Abernathy and Tualatin River Bridges to raise revenue for the I-205 Improvements Project. In Wednesday’s meeting, ODOT’s Equity and Mobility Advisory Committee talked about a few priorities moving forward with the project.

Some of the priorities, they say, are to avoid punishing those who drive and to reduce trips overall.

“[We’re] making sure that we’re not just pushing down trips in one area onto local roads or that we’re not also just shifting from peak demand periods to off-peak,” ODOT’s Michael Espinoza explained.

The I-205 Toll Project’s environmental review is almost finished. It should be published by late 2022. Another environmental review for regional mobility will begin on January 1 and is expected to wrap up in 2023.

The earliest any tolling would begin is three years from now. 

ODOT: I-205 Toll Project

ODOT says the current transportation system is outdated. The department is investing in different modes of transportation including transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities along with maintaining roads for safety and traffic flow.

According to the department, tolls allow congestion to be minimized and encourage drivers to consider other travel options or the time they choose to travel. 

“Hours of delay and congestion come at a high cost to individuals, businesses, and communities,” ODOT said.

The tolls would be an entirely electronic system that would automatically collect tolls traveling across either bridge. The system reads a transponder — a small sticker on the windshield — which is connected to the driver’s prepaid account. When a transponder isn’t present a camera will capture the license plate and the registered owner will be billed.

The department is considering two options. 

The first is the “toll alternative” meaning those traveling across bridges over the Tualatin and Willamette rivers would be tolled. 

The alternative is the “no-build alternative” where no toll would be applied. Construction would only occur on the Abernathy Bridge and interchanges. However, revenue would not be generated to manage congestion or for transportation projects, according to ODOT.

Adding tolls is expected to generate enough funds to pay for improvements along the I-205 corridor, manage congestion and improve travel time in the area. With that, the department said rear-end crashes and air pollution would both decrease.

ODOT is asking for public comment on the project, which you can leave on ODOT’s website.

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