Portland tolling plan would cover downtown I-5, I-205

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon transportation officials have unveiled a proposal to eventually toll two stretches along Portland-area freeways.

OPB reports that the proposal released Thursday calls for tolls along 7 miles of Interstate 5 through the heart of Portland, as well as a stretch of Interstate 205 around the Abernethy Bridge in the Oregon City area.

Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Tammy Baney said it will be several years before tolls could be implemented. The transportation commission is expected next week to approve an application to the Federal Highway Administration for the two tolling projects. There would have to be an extended environmental review before any federal approval.

Officials say the tolls would help pay for widening projects along the two freeways. And they hope tolling would help reduce congestion by encouraging travelers to seek alternatives.

"This is part of quality of life for the entire region," Baney said at a press briefing at the Portland office of the Oregon Department of Transportation. "If we have the congestion increase that we've continued to have over the last four or five years, it's not an equation that works."

Officials say they don't yet know how much tolls would cost. But they've particularly been interested in how tolls were implemented in the Seattle area. They vary depending on the time of day and amount of congestion. Whatever happens here, officials say they would use electronic tolling instead of old-fashioned toll booths.

The drive toward tolling came from a 2017 bill passed by the Oregon Legislature that directed the agency to move forward with congestion pricing on I-5 and I-205 in the Portland area.