City's Task Force on Pricing for Equitable Mobility releases recommendations for how to implement tolling equitably and sustainably, while new Oregon House bill goes in different direction
Legislation would burden city with cost of improving state's 82nd Avenue
(March 16, 2021) The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s (BPS) Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility (POEM) Community Task Force released a letter to Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Carmen Rubio and bureau directors Chris Warner and Andrea Durbin today. In the task force’s view, ODOT’s proposal places too much emphasis on funding major highway projects. Instead, tolling should be first and foremost about making our system work better for everyone by managing congestion.
“The primary goal of highway tolling should be managing traffic demand and using the existing system as efficiently as possible to move people and goods in a more sustainable way. While tolling can also be a revenue generating tool, this should not be the top priority,” says the task force. In its letter, the task force also emphasized that highway expansion contributes to climate change, air pollution, serious and fatal traffic crashes, burdensome transportation costs, and a host of other problems, many of which disproportionately burden Black and Indigenous communities, other people of color, low-income people and persons with disabilities.
Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty supported the task force’s position. “The tolling system described in this bill dedicates all funding to major highways and it will add traffic to local streets, make local streets less safe, increase air pollution and climate emissions, and further burden communities who have previously been decimated by highway projects,” said Commissioner Hardesty.
As an alternative to using tolling primarily to generate revenue for additional highway infrastructure that will inflate the region’s carbon footprint, the task force recommends a sustainable and flexible pricing system that will specifically take into account the financial, technology, and enforcement impacts on Black and Indigenous people, other people of color, low-income drivers, and persons with disabilities into account. The Task Force also suggests using funding to ensure that excess traffic from the state highways does not make local streets less safe and to expand transit service and critical safety infrastructure such as sidewalks and bicycle lanes. To that end, the Task Force recommends that the City advocate to amend the Oregon state constitution’s restrictions on the use of tolling funds to allow for non-capital, multimodal investments and to give local and regional community members and stakeholders a say in how that funding is spent. The full letter from the POEM Task Force can be viewed here: https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2021/poem-tolling-letter.pdf
Besides creating a tolling system that favors expensive, potentially polluting highway projects, the legislation would also saddle the City of Portland with the lion’s share of improving 82nd Avenue. Neglected for decades by the Oregon Department of Transportation, 82nd Avenue is one of the most dangerous roads within Portland's city limits. PBOT estimates that it would cost close to $200 million to bring the pothole ridden road up to a state of good repair and install basic safety features.
“The City of Portland wants to be a good partner. We all share an interconnected transportation system and the needs of our collective communities must come first. However, this proposal doesn’t feel like a partnership,” continued Commissioner Hardesty. “We were not brought to the table to discuss these details that will so dramatically impact our streets and our communities. As a result, we are strongly opposed to the jurisdictional transfer described in this bill.”
About PBOT: The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the city’s transportation system, and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage, and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation
About the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability: The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) develops creative and practical solutions to enhance Portland’s livability, preserve distinctive places and plan for a resilient future. BPS collaborates with community partners to provide comprehensive land use, neighborhood, district, economic, historic and environmental planning, and urban design; research, policy and technical services to advance green building, energy efficiency and the use of solar and renewable energy, waste prevention, composting and recycling, and a sustainable food system; and, policy and actions to address climate change.
About POEM: PBOT and BPS convened the POEM Community Task Force at the direction of City Council in July 2019 to explore if and how transportation pricing strategies could be used in Portland to advance our values Resolution No. 3744). In addition to highway tolling, the group is exploring a range of pricing strategies, including parking pricing, road usage charges, cordons and fees on commercial transportation services. The Task Force is meeting monthly over an 18-month period between January 2020 and summer 2021. Currently, 19 people sit on the Task Force representing diverse perspectives, interests, and expertise from across Portland’s community. The Task Force developed a working draft Equitable Mobility Framework to inform decision making and guide policy analysis around pricing strategies. They anticipate forwarding a full set of recommendations to City leadership in summer 2021.