City Matters: Summer 2023

One of the best aspects of being Mayor of Oregon City is the number of residents I get to speak with on a daily basis. This is how I continually learn about and continue to connect with our community, our people, and their concerns. Lately the most common topic on the top of everyone’s mind is the impending tolling on I-205, a plan put together by the Oregon Department of Transportation. 

Both the Oregon City Commission and the West Linn City Council have been united in our messaging and discontent with this plan. It’s no secret that the State plans to balance the region’s traffic on the backs of our communities and the pocketbooks of our residents, and that is not right. We are not willing to be the guinea pigs in the State’s experiments with tolling our freeways. 

While this tolling plan has only been receiving widespread attention for the past few months, it’s been in the works for 3+ years. In that time, we have asked ODOT time and time again numerous questions regarding the many concerns we have. The sad fact of the matter is, the communications from ODOT have been minimal and certainly not meaningful, as they have repeatedly failed to address those concerns. The list of those concerns is substantial. 

Both communities already see unacceptable amounts of traffic diversion from I-205 onto our surface streets as people try to avoid congestion. We know that these levels of traffic will only increase as people now exit the freeway to avoid paying the tolls, exacerbating the issues our residents already deal with daily. 

WILL irreparably harm our Main Streets.
WILL add to the traffic jams our communities are already experiencing. 
Will NOT provide for more predictable trips. 
Will NOT increase safety, and in all likelihood, accidents will increase as the patience of drivers on crowded local streets wears thin. 
Will NOT improve the flow of goods to and from markets and jobs in our area. 
Will NOT be equitable for those with the least ability to pay.

 We’re at a critical juncture right now. Will our communities survive, or will our Main Streets be sacrificed on the altar of tolling as the state hopes it will provide a benefit to the rest of the driving public? Many residents have asked me what they can do. My answer is always the same: Reach out to your state representatives and let them know how you feel about tolling. The outcry has already had some effect; Sen. Mark Meek has introduced legislation stopping the tolls. But it will take many more voices to convince the rest of the legislature that Oregon City and West Linn should not, and can not, solve the funding woes and traffic congestion problems of ODOT.