PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Regional Toll Advisory Committee held its first public meeting Wednesday morning for developing the tollway system planned for Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 at the Oregon-Washington border.

The committee’s decisions are ultimately only recommendations for the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Transportation Commission, which have final say over the project. However, the meetings will also serve as a forum for public input throughout the decision-making process.

The committee was formed in response to the Oregon Legislature passing House Bill 2017 — a $5.3 billion bill designed to improve transportation across the state through an array of taxes, fees and bond sales. Those measures included a gas-tax increase, vehicle registration hike, payroll tax and a tax on new car sales. Of this funding, 50% goes to ODOT, 30% goes to Oregon’s county governments and 20% goes to city governments.

HB 2017 also laid out a number of projects and programs aimed at relieving traffic congestion, expanding roadway capacity, improving travel times and reducing the number of crashes on Oregon highways.

In 2021, state lawmakers gave these projects more clarity by passing House Bill 3055. The legislation also outlined the implementation of “variable rate tolls” on I-5 and I-205 — a toll system that charges drivers more during peak traffic hours.

“Variable rate tolling can be used as a means to finance the construction of roadway improvements that will improve the efficient movement of goods and people,” the committee stated in its agenda.

The toll revenue from I-205 tolls will be used for the I-205 Improvement Project, which includes much-needed seismic improvements to a bridge system that is currently vulnerable to major earthquakes. The project will also fund an I-205 extension that will add a third lane to the highway in each direction. Funds may also be used for the Statewide Transportation Improvements Program, the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program and other local and regional transportation plans.

The toll system is expected to span all interstate lanes and will collect tolls electronically with no stopping points. The advisory committee will also discuss the possibility of implementing reduced costs for low-income drivers.

The state says that toll rates will be determined about six months before the tolls are introduced. The I-205 tolling system is expected to begin in late 2024. I-5 tolls are slated for 2025, at the earliest.