Oregon bills limiting toll roads die

| 5/23/2007

Two measures in Oregon have died that would have restricted the use of toll roads in the state.

One bill sought to require approval from lawmakers before the Oregon Department of Transportation could initiate toll projects. Sponsored by Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, it would have exempted the planned Newberg-Dundee Bypass.

Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood, offered another bill that would have prohibited tolling of any existing roads.

“I’m not opposed to toll roads, I just think there are plenty of other funding options that have not been explored,” George said in a written statement prior to the bill’s demise.

George and Thatcher said they were at least partially spurred to act because of a study by Macquarie Infrastructure Group, the Australian-based company that partnered with a Spanish company to pay the state of Indiana $3.85 billion in 2006 for operational control of the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years.

Macquarie officials unveiled a tolling feasibility study for the 11-mile-long bypass, and concluded that tolling the bypass by itself wouldn’t be sufficient. Traffic would also need to be tolled along the state Highway 99W corridor, the News-Register reported.

Both bills – HB2518 and SB469 – remained in committee at the deadline for bills to advance to their chamber floor, effectively killing them for the year.

The pair of lawmakers will need to wait until the next regular session opens in January 2009 to revisit tolling restrictions. The Legislature meets in regular session once every two years.

Thatcher doesn’t appear to be likely to forget about the toll issue any time soon.

“State policy is at a crossroads. We need to impose some limits before ODOT tolls everything that moves,” Thatcher said in a written statement.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor