Tolls are coming to Portland-area freeways, and even tolling fans worry they’ll stack up

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Highway tolls are to be introduced in the state. Learn more here.

In less than two years, the Oregon Department of Transportation will introduce the first highway tolls in the state.

It will begin with two bridge tolls on Interstate 205. But planned within the next few years are per-mile tolls on all lanes of Interstates 5 and 205 and, if a replacement project gets underway, a toll to cross the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River.

Freeway tolling has been all but guaranteed in Oregon since 2017, when the Oregon Legislature directed ODOT to develop a pricing system to manage highway congestion.

But as that system takes shape, even some community members and activists who support tolling as a way to manage traffic say the quickly mounting potential costs could put undue financial strain on commuters, particularly low-income drivers and communities of color.

Joe Cortright, an economist and frequent ODOT critic, said the state agency’s fragmented approach to the projects doesn’t give commuters the full picture of how much costs could stack up.

“The way you need to approach this is not piecemeal,” Cortright said. “When you add these together, you get something that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The toll programs that have emerged will not only try to nudge commuters to off-peak hours, but also help pay for big freeway projects. Tolling has been a controversial part of discussions for a replacement Interstate Bridge for years, and the Interstate 205 bridge tolls will help pay for an ongoing revamp of the freeway.


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