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The Legislature’s Transportation Leaders Want to Put the Brakes on Congestion Pricing and Hit the Gas on Tolling

The bill would effectively gut the state’s plan to reduce the number of cars on Portland-area interstate highways.

BILL OF THE WEEK: House Bill 3055

CHIEF SPONSORS: Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), Rep. Susan McClain (D-Hillsboro)

WHAT IT WOULD DO: House Bill 2017, passed four years ago, pushed the Oregon Department of Transportation toward congestion pricing on I-5 and I-205. The goal was to charge motorist variable prices to use the highways, reducing peak-hour travel, and spend the proceeds on alternative forms of transportation. In other words, congestion pricing charges more money during rush hours, discouraging drivers from hitting the freeway when it's clogged.

This bill, which would also make numerous unrelated transportation policy changes, proposes to replace congestion pricing with tolling, which charges motorists a fixed fee and dedicates the revenue to improving the highways where tolls are charged.
WHO SUPPORTS IT? Leaders of the Legislature's transportation committees and

the Oregon Transportation Commission. Metro-area lawmakers have introduced separate legislation that would restrict the use of funds raised from tolling I-205 to projects expanding it. One Democrat, state Rep. Mark Meek (D-Oregon City), signed onto that bill.

WHO OPPOSES IT? The city of Portland, Metro, Multnomah County, TriMet and nonprofits such as 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Oregon Environmental Council and Business for a Better Portland oppose switching from congestion pricing to tolling.

WHY IT MATTERS: The bill would effectively gut the state's plan to reduce the number of cars on Portland-area interstate highways. In testimony at a Feb. 9 hearing, Sara Wright of the Oregon Environmental Council emphasized the difference between congestion pricing and tolling: One seeks to reduce the number of vehicles on highways; the other seeks to maximize revenue, which means maximizing traffic. "We need congestion pricing that pays for multimodal corridor investments," Wright testified. "If the toll program's priority is to pay for freeway bonds, the program cannot be designed to effectively reduce congestion."