Kennemer denounces I-205 bond financing supported by expected toll revenues
Sen. Bill Kennemer, a Republican from Oregon City, denounced a party-line vote by the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Council last week that approved $333 million in new bail debt to pay for Interstate 205 improvements.
The plan relies heavily on paying bonds with highway tolls, which more than 70% of Oregonians oppose. Kennemer expressed concern that the vote ignored the reality that travel costs to work, school and household errands are breaking family budgets.
“I have always opposed the toll because it targets my constituents around Interstate 205,” Kennemer said in a statement. “The majority of Clackamas residents must drive out of the county to work and access health care. Asking them to bear the burden of the costs of this scheme is patently unfair.
He went on to call highway tolls “a regressive tax on the poor and working people of our communities.”
Kennemer, who does not sit on the E-board, said he would have voted against bond financing backed by revenue from highway tolls.
Kennemer also expressed concern that the Legislature and ODOT failed to have meaningful conversations about other options to build freeway infrastructure and to seek other sources of funding besides the toll plan. unpopular.
“It is shocking that we have this vote this summer, when we are not in session, and when the public and the media were generally unaware that such a huge budgetary expenditure would pass without a full vote of the legislature,” said Kennemer. .
“We shouldn’t be rushing tax increases on working-class Oregonians leading to a time when gas prices are at record highs with no signs of falling anytime soon. Approving more bond debt as interest rates soar and a recession looms – that is simply irresponsible governance.
Kennemer said he would continue to support voters given the option to vote on highway tolls. US Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, has also publicly stated that highway tolls are unfair to workers in Oregon.
“We need transport infrastructure that works, but our solutions must be fair and affordable,” Kennemer said. “We can and must do better.”
The state has repeatedly insisted it has no choice but to move forward with plans to add tolls to its two highways over the next five years, the first wave being planned for I-205 at the Abernethy Bridge near Oregon City and West Linn. .
Fees there are expected to go into effect as early as 2024 — despite the fact that the proposals have been deeply unpopular with both the general public and state officials and elected officials.
The online portals the state has set up to collect comments have attracted nearly 5,000 comments – most of them in opposition – and a presentation last September stunned Canby City Council when ODOT representatives shared projections showing that tolls could increase traffic on Highway 99E by up to 40%.
ODOT officials maintain toll revenue is needed to complete improvements along a seven-mile stretch of I-205, from Stafford Road in West Linn to Highway 213 in Oregon City, including including seismic upgrades that would make the Abernethy Bridge the first earthquake-ready highway bridge. across the Willamette River.
It would also fund the I-205 improvement project from 99E to Highway 213, 10th Street to Sunset Bridge, Highway 43 to 10th Street, and 10th Street to Stafford Road, including including the reconstruction of the Tualatin River Bridge.
ODOT says it is still investigating two toll alternatives – one of the alternatives being “no toll”. A final decision from the Federal Highway Administration, in cooperation with ODOT, is expected later this year.
The proposed toll would add gantries to both Abernethy and the Tualatin River Bridge, with the amount split between two locations. The ODOT indicates that the first tolls could start in 2024.
Improvements to I-205 approved by E-board last week will also add one-third to the only remaining two-lane section of I-205 and are expected to reduce accidents and reduce daily congestion by more than four hours and a half.
This bottleneck is currently one of the most congested in the state, with more than 100,000 vehicles passing through it daily.
ODOT’s Regional Mobility Pricing Project will charge for the remainder of I-205 as well as I-5 from the Columbia River Interstate Bridge to the Boone Bridge in Wilsonville.
The tolls will operate electronically, with sensors reading a small transponder attached to the windshield and charging a prepaid account. If a vehicle does not have a transponder, a camera will capture the car’s license plate and the registered owner will receive an invoice in the mail.
ODOT says the program will use variable rate tolls to manage congestion, which means tolls will change throughout the day, with higher rates at peak times.
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