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The I-5 Toll Bridge Debate

August 11, 2010

By Patrick Emerson
Oregon Economics Blog

Having lived many years in the Bay Area, where all of the bay bridges are tolled, and in the midwest, where all of the freeways around Chicago are tolled, the idea that tolling the I-5 bridge would cause so much controversy is amusing to me.

Tolls will not pay for the bridge, but they will generate a lot of revenue. In the era of the FasTrack electronic pass, long delays at toll booths are generally a thing of the past. And, most importantly, tolls create exactly the type of incentive to car pool, use light rail, bike and so on. So, I think you should definitely toll the I-5 bridge.

However, if you are going to toll the I-5 bridge, it is hard to see how you leave the I-205 bridge without tolls. Of course an equilibrium will arise where congestion on the Glenn Jackson bridge will be a toll of its own, but this is a toll with a large externality whereas a monetary toll is not.

  
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Bob Clark August 11, 2010

Tolling the Glen Jackson bridge at the outset is hogwash. The bridge is already paid for, and I don’t think a toll of $2 to $3 on the I-5 bridge will cause much switching to an untolled Glen Jackson bridge. You would probably waste as much in extra gasoline costs going a more cicuitous route. Anyways this should be left to trial and error. If a large amount of switching does occur, then you have the merits for tolling the GlenJackson. But you don’t have to put in tolling at the outset without ever testing its need.

Laura Bell August 11, 2010

Given the high unemployment situation in both Oregon and Washington and the fact that jobs are drying up, I don’t think this is a good time to be thinking or even suggesting a toll bridge. People are over taxed and paying way too many fees as it is. And I am terribly glad that people from the East Coast as well as the Mid West find this amusing, but when the bridge has already been paid for and the money that Oregon government has been raking in, and the fact that they can’t even manage a PERS budget,I don’t think that it would be in the public’s best interest (and for any candidates that may be running) to cram a toll bridge down our already bloated throats. Enough is enough. We need an adequate bridge that transports people to and fro. Knock of the frills, knock of light rail and bike paths and just build the damn bridge. Too many studies have been done to no avail. If you keep up the squabbling, it will never happen. AND please…no more talk about tolls. This isn’t Kansas and the government sure ain’t Dorothy.

jim karlock August 11, 2010

A better way is to reduce the cost to the point that we don’t need tolls:

First, build the bridge!! For $500-900 million

Second, dump the light rail. That saves one BILLION

Third, delay interchange rebuilds until actually needed. That saves another BILLION

Total project cost is under a Billion, probably around $800 million. That is low enough to NOT need a toll – just use gas tax money for its intended purpose!

See: http://www.nobridgetolls.com/

Why we must dump light rail:
Currently there are only 1650 people that use transit compared to 81,000 in cars & trucks. To spend a billion for 1650 people is a bad use of money when a lesser amount would accommodate 81,000 people. Of course the zeaolts at metro and pdot insist on light rail because it brings in huge amounts of money for their pals in the banking, construction and rail car industries. See http://www.portlandfacts.com/transit/whowantsrail.htm

The secret the officials are hiding is that light rail isn’t for those 1650 transit users, it is for the thousands more riders that they hope will appear after downtown Vancouver is densified with giant apartment and condo towers as far as the eye can see. Probably at taxpayer expense. Without all those additional people this line will be a vacant as Trimet’s last big blunder – the WES.

Thanks
JK

Marvin McConoughey August 13, 2010

Let’s see… We are told we need a new toll bridge because of present congestion. A toll will pay for it, or much of it. If congestion is the problem, why not toll the present bridge. That will reduce traffic and provide real-life information to planners on how much tolls reduce traffic. I dislike tolls because of the personal time cost and inconvenience, which does not always get factored into decision making.

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