Oregon Legislature Approves Plan to Start Charging Tolls on Two Interstate Highways Running Through Portland

The Oregon transportation bill instructs the state to ask federal permission for "value pricing" on I-5 and I-205.

Fremont Bridge (Keith Skelton / Creative Commons)

The Oregon Legislature has managed its big achievement of the 2017 session: It passed a massive transportation bill on July 6.

The bill calls for Oregon to raise $5.3 billion in new taxes and fees over the next decade to pay for major freeway expansions and improvements to mass transportation. Some of those plans—like the nation's first bicycle sales tax—are drawing more attention than others.

One of the key ways the bill hopes to raise revenue? Toll roads.

The bill calls for tolls on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, beginning at the Oregon-Washington border and continuing throughout the Portland metro area, concluding where the two highways intersect in Wilsonville.

The bill calls for the Oregon Transportation Commission to receive approval by Dec. 31, 2018 from the Federal Highway Administration to collect the tolls.

How much will you have to to pay for a trip on the highway? That's going to depend on the time of day.

The bill authorizes the Oregon Department of Transportation to use "value pricing," a system that charges tolls based on traffic and time of day. In other words, the toll at rush hour is going to be more than the toll at noon.

"After seeking and receiving approval from the Federal Highway Administration, the commission shall implement value pricing to reduce traffic congestion," the bill says. "Value pricing may include, but is not limited to, variable time-of-day pricing."

The tolling would help pay for an estimated $1.1 billion in congestion and freight relief projects on I-5 and I-205.

The bill also calls for a number of tax increases, including increasing the statewide gas tax, increasing vehicle registration fees and a 3 percent tax on new bicycle sales.

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