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Southwest Washington Lawmakers to Gov. Inslee: Help Defend Against Oregon’s Unfair Tolling Scheme

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Washington, D.C. , September 12, 2017 | comments
In a joint letter sent today, ten state and federal lawmakers from Southwest Washington urged Washington Governor Jay Inslee to take an active role in opposing Oregon’s transportation plan that calls for imposing tolls on I-5 and I-205 at the state line. The letter was signed by U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington State Senators John Braun (20th LD), Ann Rivers (LD 18) and Lynda Wilson (LD 17), and Washington State Representatives Richard DeBolt (LD 20), Paul Harris (LD 17), Vicki Kraft (LD 17), Liz Pike (LD 18), Ed Orcutt (LD 20) and Brandon Vick (LD 18).
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In a joint letter sent today, ten state and federal lawmakers from Southwest Washington urged Washington Governor Jay Inslee to take an active role in opposing Oregon’s transportation plan that calls for imposing tolls on I-5 and I-205 at the state line. The letter was signed by U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington State Senators John Braun (20th LD), Ann Rivers (LD 18) and Lynda Wilson (LD 17), and Washington State Representatives Richard DeBolt (LD 20), Paul Harris (LD 17), Vicki Kraft (LD 17), Liz Pike (LD 18), Ed Orcutt (LD 20) and Brandon Vick (LD 18). 

Today’s letter requests that Governor Inslee take state-level action following Jaime Herrera Beutler’s legislative move last week to block federal approval of Oregon’s tolling scheme. Jaime successfully amended the U.S. House transportation funding bill which is now expected to advance to the U.S. Senate. The amendment blocked Oregon’s proposal to establish tolls on I-5 and I-205 bridges to pay for infrastructure projects well south of Portland, providing questionable benefit to Southwest Washington commuters who would be paying the bulk of the tolls.

The text of the letter follows and a PDF version is available here.

Dear Governor Inslee:

As you k now, the Oregon legislature recently passed and Governor Brown signed a transportation package that includes a provision to establish tolls on the state line between Washington and Oregon. Since that time, there has been increasing concern in the communities we serve that this scheme will place tolls on the I-5 and I-205 bridges, and consequently put the financial burden of projects well south of Portland on the shoulders of Washington residents. We write to seek your cooperation and active involvement in protecting Washington residents against any Oregon-devised tolling plan that will unfairly charge them to pay for infrastructure that primarily benefits Oregonians.

The 1-5 and 1-205 bridges cross the Columbia River between the Washington and Oregon state line and are overwhelmingly utilized by Washington residents. Census data showed that 74,000 Washington residents cross the border every day to get to their workplaces in Oregon; 45,078 of these commuters live in Clark County alone. The Oregon transportation bill specifically states that revenue from tolling beginning at the state line will be used to improve portions of l-205 located south of Portland; in other words, infrastructure located miles away from the bridges that our constituents use. Governor Inslee, we recognize our shared interest in the freight mobility, safety and congestion relief needs stemming from the current I-5 bridge.  Oregon's current proposal, as outlined, does nothing to address those needs: it is a bad deal for Washington residents. It does not honor the long-standing, shared responsibility between Washington and Oregon for projects and maintenance between our state boundaries.

Oregon has asserted that it is still in the planning phase and that no decisions have been made to implement the tolling plan it hopes to finalize by December of 2018. To date, your position on Oregon's proposal has not been made known.  Neither Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) nor Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have been able to point out any action taken by WSDOT to insert Washington into the process. It is therefore vital that the state of Washington takes a strong, active role in the process as quickly as possible.  Please join us in providing our communities with the assurances that their elected leaders are looking out for their best interests, and present a specific plan to defend those interests.

 

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