All Politics is Local

‘If we just go with a message of ‘no tolls’ that’s probably just going to be a losing position’

In September, the Clark County council sent a letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission expressing concerns that the state’s plans to put tolls on Interstate 5 and 205 would burden area commuters who use the freeways to get to work.

But when the topic came up at the council’s Wednesday afternoon board time meeting, councilors seemed more resigned that tolls are likely coming.

During the meeting, Councilor Eileen Quiring gave the council an update on her work on the Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Advisory Committee.

That’s the committee of elected officials and other stakeholders Oregon put together to discuss plans for tolls or “value pricing.”

Over the summer, Quiring had pressed the council to issue a letter opposing the tolls and volunteered to serve on the committee after council Chair Marc Boldt refused to.

The committee completed its second meeting earlier this month, and Quiring said that she asked about holding a meeting in Clark County to get public feedback.

“I don’t know when they’ll have one here,” she said.

The conversation turned to what can be accomplished on the committee.

Councilor John Blom said that where the county can “win” is by making sure any revenue raised from the tolls is used to actually improve the corridor.

“If we just go with a message of ‘no tolls’ that’s probably just going to be a losing position,” said Blom.

“Right, right,” said Quiring.

Quiring also said that there might be an opportunity for some mitigation for Southwest Washington residents who use the freeway.

“The second meeting was much more hopeful to me because I saw the possibility that an HOV lane would be added,” she said, referring the possibility of a high-occupancy-vehicle or carpool lane being added to I-205.

During the meeting, Boldt also referenced a letter being considered by the Southwest Regional Transportation Council that would take a strong stance against tolls.

“The letter kind of scares me,” said Boldt. He said that even though Quiring represents the county on the Portland Metro Area Value Pricing Advisory Committee, the letter would be directing Quiring what to do.

Quiring underscored that she is indeed representing the county on the committee.

“If (the letter) goes out it should be very carefully crafted,” she said.

“I’m glad you’re on there,” said Boldt to Quiring.

“And not you,” said Quiring laughing.