How Clackamas County Paused Tolling & How It Can Be Stopped
The Oregon Department of Transport (ODOT) has received years of furious bipartisan pushback against its planned tolling system on the I-5 and I-205.
Residents throughout affected areas, especially in Clackamas County, saw through the empty promises and disingenuous concerns for what the proposal really was – a tax scheme to fund exorbitant public transportation projects while “encouraging” people to drive less. Not only was this tolling proposal never about building roads, it was about actively discouraging the use of them.
Let’s take a look at how the grassroots opposition forced a pause on tolling in Clackamas County and how it can be stopped altogether.
In 2017, under the misleading title “Keep Oregon Moving”, lawmakers passed a bill directing ODOT to consider tolls on the Portland metropolitan area’s two major highways. The stated purpose of the tolling was to reduce congestion and generate funding for various infrastructure projects. It took a few years for the details to get hashed out, but the resulting plan revealed some key issues.
A close look at the legislation specifics revealed that ODOT wasn’t providing any guarantees about how or where it would spend the funds generated from the tolls. Furthermore, an in-depth assessment of the proposal revealed a host of negative repercussions including:
- Increased congestion on the highway
- Disproportionate costs for low-income communities
- Diversion of traffic to local roads
- Higher traffic fatality rates
- Additional infrastructure costs for surrounding towns
- Destructive environmental impact
For years, active citizens, advocacy groups, and local leaders highlighted the shortcomings within ODOT’s proposal including a frightening lack of public outreach and a failed consideration of unforeseen consequences. Eventually, the pushback paid off.
On May 4, 2023, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek officially confirmed a temporary suspension of ODOT’s tolling plan until January 2026. This moratorium has equipped Clackamas Country residents with valuable time to continue to voice their concerns and push legislators to act.
In a telling way, ODOT dropped its proposal to build a third lane to ease traffic on the I-205 shortly after the pause was announced. While the stated reason for the decision is rising costs, some residents of Clackamas County can’t help but see this as collective punishment for the organized pushback on the tolling system. ODOT is complying with specific requests laid out by Governor Kotek, and it’s planning to continue pushing full steam ahead for the tolling system.
The two-year stall on ODOT’s tolling project was a major win for residents, but the battle is far from over. Tolls will still be implemented if Oregonians can’t convince their leaders to scrap the plan altogether or to put the decision up for a direct vote. Here are some simple yet effective ways you can make your voice heard and push to stop tolling:
Sign up for alerts.
Stay up to date on the latest developments in the fight against tolling by signing up for email or text alerts. Simply contact us to opt-in. We’ll send relevant information and actions you can take so you never miss an opportunity to make your voice heard.
Sign IP-4 petition
One of the most impactful ways residents can stop tolling in Clackamas County is by signing the IP-4 petition. This proposed constitutional amendment would require a regional vote before the implementation of any new polls. It would give a voice to everyone within a 15-mile radius of the proposed tolling systems. IP-4 is retroactive which means the already planned tolls of I-5 and I-205 would still require a regional vote. Click here to download the IP-4 form. You’ll need to print, sign, and mail both pages.
Send it to people you know.
There’s a good chance you know friends, family members, and even colleagues who are against these tolls too. You can help give them a say in the matter by sending them the IP-4 petition and encouraging their signature.
Volunteer to collect signatures.
Everyone can support giving local residents voting power on a piece of legislation that impacts their daily lives. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of people in Clackamas County and other affected countries don’t know it’s a potential option. You can help spread the word by volunteering to collect signatures on IP-4 to make a constitutional amendment requiring votes for tolls now and in the future.
Reach out to public officials.
Right now, Clackamas County residents don’t have direct input regarding the installation of ODOT’s tolling scheme, but local leaders do. You can spur more action and focus more attention on this by reaching out to your local representatives to voice your concerns.
Support groups against tolling.
There are many groups such as nonprofits, local businesses, and political groups doing excellent work in the fight against tolling. You can support these efforts through donations, providing resources, spreading the word, or offering your time.