Oregon's plans to toll parts of I-5 in Portland and I-205 on the Abernathy Bridge in Clackamas County took a major step forward this week.

In a Jan. 8 letter, the Federal Highway Administration responded positively to a Dec. 10 letter from the Oregon Department of Transportation outlining the agency's proposal for a pilot program for tolling the two stretches of highway.

Although the letter is a jargony mash-up of acronyms and references to obscure federal laws and regulations, the key words are clear: "the I-5 project is likely eligible for tolling," and "the I-205 project is likely eligible for tolling," writes Philip Ditzler, a division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.

The FHA now wants ODOT to conduct traffic and revenue studies and environmental reviews for both projects. Ditzler's letter suggests a pretty clear path for both under the feds' Value Pricing Pilot Program, which allows local governments to establish tolling programs that will reduce congestion.

That's a pretty positive outline, delivered quickly considering the feds' received ODOT's request before the holidays and the chaos of the federal government shutdown.

"This is a major step that will help us keep moving forward in what will be a long process," said Tammy Baney, chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission said in a statement. "In this letter, the FHWA acknowledges the work completed in our feasibility analysis and points us toward the next steps we need to take to use tolling in Oregon to help us maintain a transportation system that will meet our growing needs."