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Friday, December 8, 2006

Oregon: Things used to look different here

Here's a revolutionary idea: Tolls on the "freeway" bridges over the Columbia. And it looks like everybody's favorite, the Portland Business Alliance, is pushing for them.

Hey, while we're at it, why not over the Willamette? That was one of Vera's bright ideas. If it were up to her, there would have been a pay turnstile on your garage door. Right along with the parking meters on streets like Hawthorne. You see, we have no money for transportation infrastructure unless it's right next to a condo bunker.

The best part will be when they tell us that the bridge tolls will be "cheap, and temporary." Sure.

Comments (25)

I've always thought Oregon should charge admission. Why not put up toll booths at all the border crossings?

I actually don't have a problem with putting tolls on a new bridge, but keep them off the I-5 and I-205 bridges.

People who use the Columbia River bridges should pay at least part of the cost of the new bridge. Pretty common sense.

We have hit a tipping point folks. That’s the point where things that used to be impossible…now become not just likely but nearly certain. The Columbia river crossing task force now says we may need bridge tolls on both of the interstate bridges over the River. If you think that’s a crazy idea…just remember the real agenda of agencies like ODOT. Like Medieval kings They want to increase revenue…no matter the cost…and the want more control over the things in their realm. And it fits another agenda too. For a long time, transportation bureaucrats have whined that you “simply can’t build your way out of congestion”. This is bunk…and they know it. But now, the big lie has become so ingrained…they brag about how they don’t want to decrease congestion…or even increase your morning or evening commute. Just consider this quote from the Portland Tribune “the federal cost-effectiveness formula, which focuses on moving people quickly and efficiently, is unfair to the streetcar – and bad from the perspective of urban planning. As Smith explains, “The easier it is to move people from point A to point B, the harder it is to contain sprawl.” Putting tolls on both bridges brings in money, retards traffic, slows the commute…and makes another billion dollar light rail line look more attractive than it really is.

...but keep them off the I-5 and I-205 bridges.

The new bridge is needed and won't come cheap. $2 billion before graft and tram. It's gotta be paid for somehow.

Maybe a nickel/gallon on gas pumped within a certain radius of each bridge?

Personally I'm for a toll once the new bridge is up and running. But am open to alternatives.

I disagree. Let the people who feel they need a new bridge pay for it. If you want a faster commute, then you can pony up the $2. If not, take the old bridges.

Hard to see how a toll booth could make it any slower to cross the current I-5 at rush hour. If the tolls pay for a better crossing, it should be more efficient for all. In Atlanta, the GA 400 has toll booths, but most commuters use an electronic pass that allows them to drive through without stopping, so they have no delay due to the toll. And going through the actual booth didn't slow you down more than a minute or two - again, which could easily be made up for if the overall crossing situation is improved.

Also hard to see a more equitable way to pay for the improvements needed than to target the folks who use the new bridges for some of the costs.

Maybe none of you were here then, but the current bridge over the Columbia had a toll on it until the bridge was paid for.

until the bridge was paid for.

I wouldn't trust the current (and future) politicians around here to live up to any promise to make the toll temporary. Those days are over.


Seems to me some people 'round this blog tend to get real hot and bothered at the subsidies Tri-Met gets to keep fares for MAX service under the rate needed to fully cover construction costs. But when it comes time to make freeway bridge users share some of the construction cost of a new bridge, that's a problem. I thought anti-MAX folks were saying user fees were a good thing, but apparently I misunderstood.

Anyway, tolls on bridges are a common way to defray construction costs. The 101 bridge in Astoria had a toll for what, 30 years? Even the Interstate bridge itself had a toll twice in its history.

Adding a toll to Glenn Jackson to keep traffic from diverting is of course missing the point. People use Glenn Jackson now to avoid delays. If so many people divert that way to avoid the toll, then traffic will stodge up there and the problem will be reversed. Traffic will balance out over time on its own.

I'm not convinced we should give up on the idea of tolls on not only bridges but our so-called freeway system in general. If the revenues were dedicated to maintenance, safety and meeting future needs (and not diverted by the pols to other "transportation" uses) then I say let's take a look. It's hard to argue that the existing system is providing either a sufficient level or decent quality at a reasonable cost.

One way or another we're going to pay for that pavement and I'd prefer to have the smooth, high-speed, relatively uncluttered autoroutes of western europe than the crowded, dangerous rubble that passes for a freeway system here. The user costs can be kept relatively low and, of course, a non-toll alternative would always have to be available if the driver wants to put up with heavier traffic and a slower trip time.

Those days are over.


I know. But we gotta do something. I'm tired of crossing the river after work knowing I'm trapped down there until after 7.

"Seems to me some people 'round this blog tend to get real hot and bothered"

Just human nature. Folks don't like to pay for things that other people use; they just like other people to pay for the things they use themselves.

Try this:

No Toll Till Trimet Pays its way.



A question. I would guess Karlock would know. Does the subsidy for Tri-Met bus and MAX passengers go to retiring construction debt or does it go to operations?

Just so I don't misunderstand.

How about turnstiles to get on MAX? I surmise that revenues would increase with a slight dip in ridership.

One thing Jack's eloquent post about New York City didn't mention is their subway system. Not it's efficiencies in moving a large contingent of people, but it's effectiveness assuring fares are collected. A simple procedure know as a turnstile

"A simple procedure know as a turnstile"

Leaving aside the important issue of whether a turnstile is a procedure, would't you have to bury (or elevate) all the bus lines, etc., to make it work?

That's the positive spirit, Allan!

I'd bet modern technology could incorporate a turnstile equivalent in the doorway of busses and MAX. Think of the federal money we could get for that!

Of course, collecting fares is so unimportant in the larger picture. So "capitalistic", if you will.

"One way or another we're going to pay for that pavement and I'd prefer to have the smooth, high-speed, relatively uncluttered autoroutes of western europe than the crowded, dangerous rubble that passes for a freeway system here."

Check out the roads in New York and New Jersey to see what all that toll revenue does not buy you. Lots of tolls, yet roads that make ours look like the autobahn.

"No Toll Till Trimet Pays its way"

How 'bout making bridge tolls permanent and raising bridge tolls to issue lots of bonds. Then Tri-Met won't have to pay for itself, or better yet it will provide a nice capital source for local pols to fund backslapping deals with and buy lots more shiny toys.

This whole project is another ploy to extend MAX and build more condo farms.

They are going to replace a 6 lane structure with another 6 lane structure (but with aux lanes) + light rail.

2+ billion dollars, numerous "studies," and 20 more years of waiting will get us more traffic congestion and a shiny new MAX line.

I am glad Portland thinks ahead.

"That's the positive spirit, Allan!"

So, Ricky, you're saying what we need is for the operator to collect the fare. What'll they think of next?
You might be surprised to learn that I think that would be a fine idea. I don't like Fairless Square, and I think there is a significant "moral hazard" factor in free public transit. I've said it here before: to a lot of people, "free" means about the same thing as "worthless". It costs money to collect and enforce fares, but it's well worth it. The current system hardly has even token enforcement. That's unfair to users who actually pay, to say nothing of taxpayers who pick up the rest of the tab. A side benefit is, fare enforcement would raise the general level of dress and hygiene of mass transit users.

I hope many of you bloggers haven't forgotten that we pay over 40 cents per gallon in gas taxes which are suppose to only go to roads. We've known that the I-5 bridge needed updating/replacement for over 40 years. Where has there been financil planning?

They actually have all the money they need. Check their comprehensive annual financial report. This is just about getting more from you to accelerate construction projects to keep the gravy train growing and flowing instead of having to keep it flat. They want the money now and they need to keep the ability to finance at preferential rates to do more later. The bottom line is more make work sooner.

"we pay over 40 cents per gallon in gas taxes which are suppose to only go to roads"

Well, not quite. 24 cents to the state (which can only go for roads), 3 cents to Multnomah County (currently dedicated to their Willamette river bridges), and 18.3 cents to the Feds (which is at the whim of Congress to allocate).

RR wants to know:
"Does the subsidy for Tri-Met bus and MAX passengers go to retiring construction debt or does it go to operations?"

Tri-Met requires subsidies for both construction and operations. In 2004, fares covered only 20 percent of operating costs and, of course, 0 percent of capital costs.

On the broader issue, why is Jack so strung out about tolls? We have to pay for the roads somehow. Gas taxes aren't doing the job, partly because they don't automatically adjust with inflation or when cars get more fuel efficient. Plus, gas taxes don't make sure that the people who get the benefits are the ones paying the costs.

Oregon was the first state to have gas taxes. If they had electronic tolls back then, we probably would have used them. They make a lot more sense. We just have to make sure that tolls collected are not diverted to inane projects like streetcars.

One more thing: the only reason the bridges are expected to cost $2 billion are because Metro gold plates everything. If Metro weren't spending years planning, planning, and triple planning, we could have had these bridges years ago.

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