Washington's Progressive Governor Becomes Protectionist When it Comes to Portland Tolling

Do residents in Vancouver, Washington need protection from congestion pricing applied to all lanes on two Portland interstates? Gov. Jay Inslee seems to think so, adding that the value pricing pilot project is "going nowhere."

2 minute read

August 4, 2018, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Marquam Bridge

JPL Designs / Shutterstock

Gov. Jay Insee (D) has been a champion of fighting climate change and addressing transportation shortfalls, as has Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown (D). Both governors have signed transportation funding legislation that hikes gas taxes. One measure in the Oregon law, HB 2017, impacts Vancouver, the largest suburb of Portland, that has Inslee concerned.

Inslee instructed the Washington State Department of Transportation on Tuesday "to make sure our residents’ interests are protected in any tolling discussion," reports Katy Sword for The Columbian.

It's not like Washington residents, or even WSDOT wasn't heard by the Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee which forwarded its recommendations to the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on July 5.

The 25-member committee — of which Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring and WSDOT Southwest Regional Administrator Kris Strickler were members — suggested pursuing Concept B, which would toll all lanes in I-5 between Southwest Multnomah Boulevard and Northeast Going Street. The group also recommended moving forward with Concept E, which would add tolls on I-205 near the Abernathy Bridge and Stafford Road.

Sword updates the recommendations with information not previously posted here:

Earlier [in July], however, the Portland City Council told the OTC they prefer skipping the first phase and moving ahead with tolling all lanes of I-5 and I-205, a proposal known as Concept C. The advisory committee suggested considering a full rollout after testing tolls on a smaller scale to ensure success.

Inslee scoffed at the recommendations, stating on Tuesday that "the proposal is 'going nowhere,'” adds Sword. Clearly, they are going somewhere – to the OTC, and from there to the Federal Highway Administration by Dec. 31, as required by HB 2017 [pdf]. What happens from there is another story.

Washington congresswoman welcomes Inslee's comments

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, tweeted that she was "pleased to hear Inslee stand up for the best interests of Southwest Washington [and state] that Oregon’s tolls at state line 'will not happen'" after earlier tweeting that the Democratic governor should "take a public stand alongside me against unfair tolling that would penalize Washington commuters once they crossed the state line." In a July 31 press release, Beutler added:

Defending working class Washington residents is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, it’s what elected officials are supposed to do, and I hope more of our colleagues who represent this region join us and publicly weigh in against Oregon’s plan.”

One thing Washington residents won't get to do is vote on the value pricing plan if Initiative Petition 10 qualifies for the 2020 ballot. Only registered Oregon voters, regardless of where they reside, would make that decision if the initiative drive is successful.

Hat tip to IBTTA Smart Brief.

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