Passing a bill is never the final step with public policy. Decisions about implementation remain to be made by regulators and other state officials, and last year’s Transportation Bill left more unanswered questions than usual. The uncertainty exists in part because of the size of the bill and in part because of the complexity involved with any transportation project. The Joint Committee on Transportation, Oregon Transportation Commission, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and local governments continue to sort through those questions. Work already is underway on a handful of projects that, though not technically part of the Transportation Bill, address some of the priority areas that the bill attempts to address, in particular Portland-area congestion. These projects include: Adding lanes to U.S. Highway 26 west of Portland from Cornelius Road to 185th Avenue. Work is almost complete and under budget, Paul Mather, Highway Division Administrator for ODOT, told the Joint Transportation Committee during Legislative Days last month. Maintenance and upgrades to the Interstate 5-Interstate 84 intersection in downtown Portland. This project, which affects one of the busiest freeway interchanges in the state, will require a road closure one weekend this summer, Mather said. Paving and bridge repair. Paving and bridge repair projects are underway throughout the state, many on high-traffic routes such as Interstates 5 and 205 and the Eugene Beltline. For a list of projects click here.

Choosing which projects to pursue first is a difficult task with political implications, as already illustrated by the debate in Portland over the what to do in the Rose Quarter area. But even on projects that most people agree are needed, there will be questions about how to fund the work. The taxes included in the 2017 bill will pay for only a portion of the desired projects. Probably the most contentious alternative for additional funding will be tolling. Some members of the Joint Transportation Committee say tolling is the only viable option for funding some projects. Yet, opposition from various constituencies is inevitable. And even stakeholders who accept tolling may not agree on what type of tolling. During the Legislative Days hearing, ODOT officials discussed some of the tolling options. Each project presents several tolling choices:

Which routes should be tolled?
Should tolls be applied to all or some lanes?
Should tolls apply at all times or just during times of peak congestion?
How should tolls be collected?

To see slides from the presentations, click here. ODOT must answer these questions and file a tolling application with the Federal Highway Administration by the end of the year. The current timeline calls for ODOT to present a draft proposal to the Oregon Highway Commission for approval November 16.
The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County
101 E. 8th St.  |  Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 779-4847