Kotek Makes It Official: She’s Ordered ODOT to Pause Tolling Until 2026

Lawmakers said the governor was on board with the pause earlier this week. Now, she’s said it herself.

50679940201_33857c0bbe_6k Interstate 205. (Oregon Department of Transportation)

Gov. Tina Kotek sent a letter today to legislative leaders and the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Transportation memorializing her direction to the Oregon Department of Transportation to pause planned highway tolling until January 2026.

Until earlier this week, ODOT had hoped to start tolling Interstate 205 as early as next year. The agency is currently pursuing, at legislative direction, two separate tolling programs for I-205 and I-5 in the metro area.

Although those programs have been under discussion for years (lawmakers directed ODOT to start working on tolling in 2017), pressures have come to a head in recent months, particularly in communities along I-205. A bipartisan group of 31 lawmakers, including many from the metro area, introduced a bill last week to pause tolling on I-205. That got the attention of legislative leaders, who quickly decided to form a what’s being called the Special Subcommittee on Transportation Planning of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

When Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) and House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) announced that step earlier this week, they said Kotek was on board, but the governor had not yet said anything publicly to that effect.

Now, she has. That’s important, for while the Legislature sets ODOT’s budget, the agency reports to the governor. And, although the agency, which depends heavily on imperiled gas tax revenues for funding, is in increasingly rough financial shape, Democrats can sense the political backlash that tolling could bring.

“Since taking office, I have heard consistently from stakeholders and residents that they need to understand more of the impacts and tradeoffs of tolling I-205 and I-5 before these tolls take effect,” Kotek wrote to legislative leaders today.

“While tolling must remain a critical component of how our state moves forward with funding transportation infrastructure, I see value in taking the time necessary to ensure we are doing it right. To that end, I have directed the Oregon Department of Transportation to delay all toll collection until January 1, 2026.”

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