Interstate Bridge Replacement and Highway Tolls Move Front and Center in Salem

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation will finally take public testimony on House Bill 2098.

EASTSIDE EXIT: The interchange of I-5 and I-84 in Portland. (Brian Burk)

Although the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation is grappling with whether and how to fund two megaprojects on Interstate 5 in Portland (the proposed $1.45 billion expansion of the freeway at the Rose Quarter and the $6.5 billion replacement of the Interstate Bridge), the committee has held limited discussion of those projects or the tolls the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to use to pay for them.

Eight members of the committee, including Rep. Khanh Pham and Sen. Lew Frederick (both D-Portland), took the unusual step of requesting a public hearing on tolling way back on March 9. That hearing still hasn’t happened, but the committee will finally take public testimony on House Bill 2098, which relates to the bridge and tolling, on April 27 at 5 pm.

Clackamas County residents and their lawmakers are all but revolting against proposed tolls, which they fear would be too expensive and would divert traffic from Interstate 205 to local streets.

At an April 24 town hall in Lake Oswego, Senate President Rob Wagner, who last week named himself to the Transportation Committee, told the crowd, “ODOT has not done a very good job answering [tolling] questions for our community and I think this conversation is not done.”

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