Video Primer: Congestion Pricing in Portland

The Oregon Department of Transportation, along with Metro Regional Government and the City of Portland are preparing a roll-out of a congestion-pricing plan which entails tolling parts or all of Interstates 5 and 205. 

The term congestion-pricing tells you the ostensible reason: to manage the increasingly unmanageable traffic on both freeways. By putting a price on driving – especially during rush hour – multiple cities around the world have managed to decrease congestion across the board. 

In addition, the revenue raised from the tolling would provide funds for much-needed repairs of highways and roadways in the region. This speaks to a nationwide shortage of roadway and infrastructure funds that is (largely) the result of dried up federal spending to support new transportation infrastructure.

The main mechanism for this, the federal gas tax, has not been raised since the 1990’s, meaning that most states have a backlog of unfunded but necessary projects. Tolling one or both of these highways, then, has the potential to solve two problems at once: reducing congestion in the Portland area, and generating revenue for other transportation projects. 

We recognize the value in the plan, but hope to see significant care given to address its inevitable impacts on residential areas – as traffic diverts to surface streets to avoid tolls – as well as low-income drivers who will struggle to pay an additional fee to commute to work.

The congestion pricing plan is part of Metro’s larger Regional Transportation Plan and as such there are plans in the works at the city and state level to speak to these issues and others. We are glad to see a holistic approach to solving these problems, and hope to see these agencies coordinating together as the plan moves forward.  

Here is a brief on ODOT’s public outreach efforts and what they found:

Enhanced transit corridors plan

Portland’s Vision Zero initiative:

Employer partnerships for alternative transportation: