Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has instructed the state transportation department to delay the implementation of tolls on state highways until January 2026, and she has documented this directive in a letter delivered today to legislative leaders and the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
ODOT had wanted to begin charging tolls on I-205 as early as next year, but that plan was scrapped earlier this week. The agency is working on two different tolling plans for I-205 and I-5 in the metro region, as mandated by the legislature.
Those plans have been discussed for quite some time (in 2017, lawmakers mandated that ODOT begin exploring tolling), but pressures have recently risen, especially in communities along I-205. Last week, 31 lawmakers from both parties, including many from the metropolitan area, introduced a bill to halt tolling on Interstate 205 temporarily. Legislative leaders took notice and promptly established a new group called the Special Subcommittee on Transportation Planning of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
Kotek was reportedly on board when Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) and House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) announced earlier this week. Still, the governor had not yet made a public statement supporting the move.
As of right now, she has. This is significant since the governor is responsible for ODOT even if the Legislature controls the agency’s funding. Despite the agency’s increasingly precarious financial situation due to its reliance on gas tax revenues, Democrats are aware of the potential political backlash that tolling could bring.
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“Since taking office, I have heard consistently from stakeholders and residents that they need to understand more about the impacts and tradeoffs of tolling I-205 and I-5 before these tolls take effect,” Kotek wrote to legislative leaders Monday.
While I agree that tolling will continue to play a significant role in how our state pays for transportation infrastructure, I think it’s important to take the time to get it right. So, I’ve instructed the Oregon Department of Transportation to stop collecting tolls until January 1, 2026.
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