Portland/ Politics & Govt
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Published on February 28, 2024
Portland Metro Survey Reveals Strong Opposition to Proposed Highway Tolls, Suggests Equity ConcernsSource: Oregon Department of Transportation, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A setback for toll supporters could be looming, as survey data indicates major pushback from Portland metro citizens. Per a West Linn Tidings report, a commissioned survey found that a whopping 75% of residents are firmly against the tolling of local freeways. This recent wave of opposition has been strongest in Clackamas County, where the idea of tolls on I-5 and I-205 has not been sitting well with the community.

The findings, delivered by DHM Research, show that opposition in Clackamas County peaks at 91%, trailed by Washington County at 76% and Multnomah County at 69% against the toll proposition. Alarmingly, the survey also revealed that to simply avoid tolls, 82% say public transit doesn't offer a practical alternative, and 80% voiced concerns over increased traffic and safety issues. According to the survey, which was undertaken across Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, the opposition stems mainly from costs and doubts over tolling's equity – a sizeable 83% agreed tolling would unfairly burden people unable to shift travel patterns.

These survey results come on the heels of Oregon Governor Tina Kotek's decision to postpone the Oregon Department of Transportation’s tolling program until 2026 due to negative feedback. The proposed tolls were slated for major transportation veins like I-5 and I-205, which a recent KOIN article highlighted had encountered opposition from the survey's outset.

Additionally, the survey tackled potential alternative revenue methods. It seemed the notion of expanding electric vehicle registration fees was favored, with 61% in support, suggesting at least some avenues remain for funding the much-needed transportation projects. Despite the broad disdain for tolling, still, only 6% have dared to actually attend public meetings on the proposals, indicating a gap between sentiment and action. Detailed findings from the study are available in a report shared by Oregon City which also emphasizes the lack of community engagement in the decision-making process.

In sum, the survey has thrown a considerable shadow over ODOT's tolling plans, underscoring community concerns and an overwhelming perception of unfairness in the tolling approach. The collected opinions, coupled with the administrative costs tied to starting tolls, suggest alternate revenue options might not only be less adverse to communities but more in line with voters' preferences. This public sentiment forms the crux of the conversation that will shape future transportation infrastructure investments in the Portland metro area.