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Southwest Washington Lawmakers Urge Advisory Committee to Reject Disproportionate Tolling Plan by Oregon
Federal, state and county-level opposition to any scheme that would unfairly target Washington commuters comes ahead of final tolling advisory committee decision on June 25
In a joint letter sent late yesterday, 16 federal, state and county-level lawmakers from Southwest Washington urged the Oregon’s tolling advisory group to reject any plan that disproportionately targets Washington residents.In a joint letter sent late yesterday, 16 federal, state and county-level lawmakers from Southwest Washington urged the Oregon’s tolling advisory group to reject any plan that disproportionately targets Washington residents.
The letter was signed by U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, Washington state Senators John Braun (LD 20), Ann Rivers (LD 18) and Lynda Wilson (LD 17), Washington state Representatives Richard DeBolt (LD 20), Jim Walsh (LD 19), Paul Harris (LD 17), Vicki Kraft (LD 17), Liz Pike (LD 18), Ed Orcutt (LD 20) and Brandon Vick (LD 18), and Clark County Councilmembers Marc Boldt (chair), Jeanne Stewart (District 1), Julie Olson (District 2), John Blom (District 3) and Eileen Quiring (District 4).
In their letter to the Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee, the elected officials detailed their concerns with Oregon’s plan to impose tolls at the state lines and urged the committee to reject any such plan when they make their final recommendation on June 25.
The full text of the letter follows and is also available here.
Dear Value Pricing Policy Advisory Committee,
As elected officials from Southwest Washington, we write in advance of the June 25 PAC meeting urging you to reject any tolling plan that will disproportionately harm the residents we represent.
We are particularly concerned by indications that Oregon intends to move ahead with its maximum tolling design, known as "Concept C," either immediately or as a next-step. Our concerns stem from the following:
• No choice for Washington residents who work in Oregon: Concept C or any others that would charge Washington residents as soon as they cross into Oregon via either 1-5 or l205, on all lanes, leaves them with no transportation options — their commutes will become more expensive.
• No traffic infrastructure improvement for those who will pay: Oregon has indicated that it will use the tolls collected largely from Washington commuters on infrastructure improvements outside of the area where they're charged, hence providing the Washington residents who will pay with little to no benefit.
• “Congestion pricing” unfairly targets working class Clark and Cowlitz County residents: The "congestion pricing" style of tolling will penalize those Clark and Cowlitz County residents who can't choose to commute to work during non-peak hours. Many of them are teachers, service industry workers and others working low-wage jobs; in other words, those who can least afford additional costs.
Case law, longstanding transportation policy and precedent demands that user fees be directed to benefit those who pay the fees, and not diverted elsewhere. It would be unfair for Oregon to devise a scheme to require Washington drivers to pay for transportation infrastructure that they rarely use and for efforts that won't improve their commutes. For this reason, we remain staunchly opposed to any recommendation that resembles "Concept C."
We cannot express in strong enough terms the resentment and distrust that is building among Southwest Washington residents toward Oregon as a result of this hasty process. While we appreciate the representation provided by the three Washington representatives on the PAC, the summaries of the meetings and workshops have consistently minimized or ignored the opposition growing among Washington residents.
Moving ahead in spite of this opposition will have negative consequences for our mutual interests. We're confident you share our desire to address traffic congestion, freight mobility and river navigation challenges posed by the current 1-5 bridge. As you know, such an effort can never happen without bi-state cooperation. If Oregon adopts a plan like "Concept C" that would place a financial penalty on workers every time they commute to and from their jobs, it will hinder any effort to adequately address not just the 1-5 bridge, but the transportation challenges within the entire corridor for years, if not longer.
Again, we urge you to reject any plan that does not offer significant infrastructure improvements located in the area of, and proportional to, the tolls being charged.