Innovative Road Toll System Introduced by Oregon State to Raise Funds And Help Lower Income Families

The Oregon state via the Oregon Transportation Commission has been considering new rules involving road tolls for a number of years now and has recently released details of how it might work. It has the dual objectives of increasing revenue for the state from road tolls, but also reducing the burden of those tolls on low-income families.  It will also have beneficial objectives of reducing traffic flows, especially at busy times, and thus reducing pollution and damage to the environment as well as wear and tear on roads and bridges.

The monies raised are expected to help fund the state’s expenditure on road building and improvements and in fact state law mandates that revenue raised from motoring must be used on transport programs.

In order to understand the implications of this and how it will affect people, the state carried out a major engagement program where it asked members of the community what they thought and it:

  • reached out to over 4 1/2 thousand people at community events and locations.
  • received nearly 900 responses to a survey;
  • collected over 600 comments; and
  • had many meetings with partner, agencies and community-based organisations.

 

It has taken this feedback on board, analysed it and used it in order to prepare the toll program and as a result, it has developed a plan for how it will implement these tolls. Not everyone has supported these proposals. Some people worry that people will try to avoid the tolls and drive through neighbourhoods – thus putting pressure on local roads. Climate activists. don’t think it goes far enough, however, the majority of people broadly support it.

The tolls will apply to the 205-Interstate and the 5-Interstate but not just yet as the Governor, Tina Kotek, has pushed the expected start date back to 2026.  Whilst the tolls have not yet been set the following details, however, are clear:

  • anyone who is an Oregon or a Washington resident can sign up for the reduced fees;
  • Those who earn twice the federal poverty levels (currently $60,000 for a family of 4) will receive at least a 50% discount on tolls;
  • Public transport, military and emergency response vehicles will not have to pay the tolls;
  • Federally recognised tribes and their tribal government vehicles will not have to pay tolls at all;
  • The Oregon Department Of Transport (ODOT) is also going to look into whether it will be able afford to extend the discounts further, for example by giving discount for drivers earning up to 4 times the poverty level.

 

The state believes that this will set a new national president for support for low-income drivers as well as helping it balance its road building and improvements budget.

One of the reasons behind this need to raise revenue from tolls is that there has been a drop in fuel revenue received which has hit the state’s budgets.

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