This morning, the Oregon Department of Transportation is convening it’s first meeting of the Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee. Spurred by the Transportation Bill passed in Salem last June (HB 2017), ODOT is convening transportation advocates from across the Portland Region to discuss the viability and efficacy of establishing congestion pricing as a mechanism to address recurring gridlock across our region’s freeways. (Read more about ODOT’s committee here).
No More Freeway Expansions is eager to see ODOT begin conversations to explore congestion pricing in earnest. From commuters to shoppers, freight trucks to tourists, everyone is impacted by traffic congestion. The unreliably variable and increasing travel times imposed by our policy of heavily subsidizing unfettered access to our major arterials and freeways during peak hours significantly hinders our regional and state economic potential, contributes to atrocious public health outcomes in terms of both air quality and sedentary behavior, and distributes the biggest burdens of congestion disproportionately to low-income, vulnerable Oregonians and Washingtonians who need improved mobility options for economic opportunity and quality of life.
It is with this perspective that our coalition submitted a letter this morning to the Committee asking them to use this platform as a forum to advocate aggressively for congestion pricing policies as a fiscally responsible, climate-smart, technically-competent, and ethically just alternative to freeway expansion within Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary. The numerous benefits to the region provided by successful implementation of congestion pricing – significant mitigation of recurring traffic gridlock, reliable commute times, increased relative competitiveness of transit alternatives, reduction in carbon emissions, improvement of local air quality, decreased incentive for exurban sprawl, predictable commute times for freight interests – are heavily negated by continued, unchecked expansion of lane miles of our region’s freeways and arterials. We strongly object to potential revenues raised from congestion pricing being used to finance further freeway construction and expansion, and ask committee members to advocate for any potential revenue to be reinvested in transit, biking, and walking infrastructure and programming that provides cost-effective, healthy alternatives to freeway expansions that will actually address our region’s congestion woes.
We’ll be following the Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee closely in the months ahead; addressing our underpriced freeways (if done equitably, thoughtfully, and with an intent to direct revenue to biking, walking and transit initiatives and infrastructure) represents the most cost-effective and sustainable way to manage traffic congestion while providing mobility options that serve Portlanders needs.
Our letter to the Value Pricing Committee on the importance of establishing a regional policy of instituting congestion pricing ahead of freeway expansion is available HERE.
We’ll have information available soon detailing how the community can engage with Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s proposed November 30 resolution on Congestion Pricing.