ODOT: I-205 Tolling Could Spike Highway 99E Traffic by 40%

The plans to add tolling gantries to Interstate 205 could spike traffic on Highway 99E through Canby by as much as 40%, according to a presentation Oregon Department of Transportation officials gave the Canby City Council this week.

Officials offered the presentation during the council’s regular meeting Wednesday night, as part of the statewide transportation authority’s ongoing survey collecting feedback on various tolling models and systems.

One of the options being explored, however, is not what the majority of residents — and the city’s elected officials, for that matter — would prefer: no tolling at all.

I-205, and most likely, Interstate 5 as well, will eventually be tolled. That decision was made by the Legislature when it passed the so-called “Keep Oregon Moving” bill in 2017, ODOT officials said Wednesday.

The location has also been chosen, at or near the Abernethy Bridge in Oregon City, with the goal of easing congestion and funding improvements on 205 between Stafford Road and Highway 213.

The feedback the survey is collecting, rather, is the precise means by which the toll will be enacted.

On Wednesday, ODOT officials offered detailed information on the five alternatives under consideration for tolling in the corridor and the impact each one is expected to have on the surrounding roads and thoroughfares — including Highway 99E through Canby.

Oregon Highway 43 through Lake Oswego would see a slight increase — 5% to 10% — under any of the proposals, while Stafford Road would actually see a comparative decrease as more drivers avoid 205.

Under several of the proposals, though, Canby would get slammed, with a predicted 30% to 40% increase under alternatives 1 and 3, and a 20% to 30% spike under alternative 4.

Mat Dolata, alternatives analysis lead for WSP, a Portland-based infrastructure and traffic consultant hired by ODOT, noted that alternatives 3 and 4 are the ones that have so far been recommended to the agency for further review.

Courtesy ODOT and the City of Canby.

“On Oregon 99E in downtown Canby, we see the potential for a significant increase in volume over the course of the day,” Dolata told councilors, noting that the largest impacts would be during off-peak hours.

Not surprisingly, several council members expressed concerns about these numbers. Councilor Sarah Spoon pointed out that Highway 99E, with its current usage, is already a source of near-endless complaints from many who drive on it throughout the week.

“I think a lot of our community feels like it is already kind of stretched,” she said. “It was built for a community that lived here 15 years ago. We’re growing and expanding, and traffic is only getting worse.”

She asked what mitigation the state may be able to offer for communities severely impacted by the tolling program, to which Dolata said ODOT may consider widening certain intersections through Canby or refining the tolling levels to minimize the impacts as much as possible.

Council President Tim Dale criticized the lack of clarity ODOT has presented as to why the agency needs more revenue and what it would be spent on.

“Your problem statement on revenue is not clear. … What do you need revenue for? Where’s it going to go to?” he asked. “And I’ll be honest with you: You’re dealing with a community that has a great deal of skepticism as to real intent.

“You’re dealing with a community that is going to look at your solution, which is to toll 205, as yet another example where Clackamas County is going to bear the cost of funds being diverted to Portland causes.”

The only real solution to easing congestion on 205 is to add lanes to it, Dale said, and while ODOT officials indicated some of the toll revenue would go toward interstate widening projects, this was not made very clear in the presentation Wednesday.

Without more lanes on 205, Dale summed up, the tolling program is an entirely unappealing equation for local residents: a worse, more expensive commute, without any discernible decrease in congestion.

“This is not a problem statement or solution statement that we can sell to Canby residents or Oregon City residents or I-205 commuters,” said Dale, a longtime commuter himself. “It’s not clear at all where the benefit is to us.”

Before Covid-19, about 100,000 vehicles traveled the section of I-205 between Stafford Road and 213 every day, causing over six hours of congestion. This section is the only two-lane segment on I-205 in Oregon.

ODOT plans to add a third lane in each direction and make the Abernethy Bridge seismically resilient, but construction funding is not available. ODOT says toll revenue could help pay for these improvements.

Tolls are being considered on all lanes and in both directions on I-205, on or near the Abernethy Bridge. Toll rates would vary by time of day, with higher tolls during peak demand periods and lower tolls during times with less demand.

Tolls would be collected electronically without requiring drivers to stop.

See the full presentation by ODOT officials in the video below, courtesy CTV Channel 5 and the City of Canby:

For more information, or to take the I-205 tolling survey (open until Sept. 16), visit the following links:

Online engagement site:

English: http://oregonevents.org/openhouse/i205toll

Spanish: http://oregonevents.org/openhouse/i205toll-esp

Online survey form:

English: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5678377/ODOT-I-205-Outreach-OOH-Summer-2020

Spanish: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5678377/ODOT-I-205-Outreach-OOH-Summer-2020-esp

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