Tolls in Our Future?

Today’s Oregonian reports on the possibility of using tolls to fund new lanes on Highway 217, and reminds us that tolls are not completely foreign to Oregon. The Barlow Trail was a toll road and the Interstate Bridge was once tolled.

Metro forecasts that the 12-minutes average commute on 217 is headed to 16 minutes, but could be pared back to 12 minutes with an additional lane, or 7 minutes in an express toll lane.

Tolls have also been discussed for the Newberg/Dundee bypass, rebuilding the Sellwood Bridge and for the replacement or supplement to the Interstate Bridge.

What I find fascinating is that I hear tolls being promoted by both alternate mode advocates, because they may reduce or time-shift auto demand, and by folks like the Cascade Policy Institute, because they are market-based solutions to capacity and because they bring private equity to highway projects.

On the flip side is the possibility that the driving public just won’t stand for it. There are also economic justice arguments that some of the folks who would need to use these routes are least able to afford tolls to get to their jobs.

What do you think?

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