Panel says tolls ‘essential’ for I-5 bridge

| 8/2/2010

A panel appointed by the governors of Washington and Oregon says tolling is “essential” to the success of a proposed Columbia River bridge linking the two states on Interstate 5. The public has a chance to comment on the proposal during a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 5.

This is a project that officials say could require the existing I-5 bridge linking Vancouver and Portland to be tolled to help fund the $3 billion to $4 billion replacement bridge. Officials have also suggested tolls on the existing I-205 bridge as a way to capture more revenue by eliminating a toll-free alternative.

The Columbia River Crossing Independent Review Panel issued its final report to Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and Oregon Gov. Theodore Kulongoski on Friday, July 30.

“Tolling is seen by the (panel) as essential to the viability of the suggested plan. However, many tolling issues remain including overall philosophy, how and when tolls are imposed, and whether their purpose is project finance, travel demand management or some of both,” panel members stated in the report. Click here to view the full report.

Variable toll rates would be set for peak, off-peak and overnight hours, with the highest tolls occurring during rush hours.

The panel also says light rail and pedestrian walkways are essential to the project despite a survey, which indicates that just 6.7 percent of motorists would leave their cars to avoid a variable toll.

In public comments collected and published so far by the states, an overwhelming majority of motorists and truckers say they are opposed to tolling the I-5 and I-205 bridges.

OOIDA is opposed to the tolling of existing infrastructure built with tax dollars. The Association also insists that any tolled facility be in reasonable proximity to a toll-free alternative for truckers and other highway users.

There is still time to comment on the CRC toll proposal. A public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010, at the following location.

Jantzen Beach SuperCenter, Community Room
1405 Jantzen Beach Center
Portland, OR 97217

A formal presentation begins at 6 p.m. with public testimony to follow.

Public comments are also being accepted via an online comment form; by e-mail at feedback@columbiarivercrossing.org, by phone at 360-737-2726 or 503-256-2726; by fax at 360-737-0294; or by mail at 700 Washington St., Suite 300, Vancouver, WA 98660.

– By David Tanner, associate editor
david_tanner@landlinemag.com