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City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly Is Latest Official to Question Oregon Department of Transportation Over Highway Project

In a letter, she doubts that ODOT will implement tolling before the project is completed, as required by City Council.

Portland Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly does not believe the state's transportation agency will live up to the city's requirements for the Interstate 5 Rose Quarter project, she writes in a April 3 letter.

The two-page letter to the chair of the policy-setting Oregon Transportation Commission is the latest from a public official to question the Oregon Department of Transportation over its plans for the I-5 expansion.

Eudaly's letter to commission chair Tammy Baney calls for implementing a highway tolling plan to relieve congestion before the project is completed. (That's a requirement City Council passed last year, she writes.)

There's a long way to go before what's called congestion pricing can be implemented in Portland, specifically approval from the federal government, but the state has also already approved a plan for congestion pricing.

In the letter, Eudaly says she doesn't believe the state agency is going to implement congestion pricing in the timeframe the city requires.

"We all know that we cannot build our way out of our congestion problems and that variably pricing our packed roadways is critical to managing that congestion," Eudaly writes.

"As this condition makes clear, the Oregon Department of Transportation must coordinate the eventual implementation of congestion pricing with the I-5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project – I do not believe this is in ODOT's current plan," she adds.

On Friday, staff for the regional government metro submitted a formal critique of ODOT's plan that called elements of the plan "objectively not true" and "potentially misleading."

Related: Regional Government Metro Stops Just Short of Saying the Oregon Department of Transportation Is Lying About Highway Project

Her letter does not address why it is Eudaly believes ODOT won't implement congestion pricing in time for the project. But the state's formal document on the project, the environmental assessment, does not appear to address congestion pricing or assume it will be implemented before the project is completed.

Instead, in a bizarre twist, revealed by Oregon Public Broadcasting last week, ODOT assumes that a Columbia River Crossing, which was killed off six years ago, will be in place by the time the Rose Quarter expansion is built. There's new life in the bridge project, with the governor calling for a development of a plan, as The Oregonian reported yesterday, but approval for that project is not guaranteed.

Eudaly also wrote an April 2 Facebook post elucidating her position on the project, where she voiced support for an environmental impact statement. That's a more through review by ODOT, which would potentially result in delays to the project.

Related: An Expanded Interstate 5 in Portland Could Loom Over the Eastbank Esplanade Bike Path