Clark County comes out against tolling for I-5 bridge replacement megaproject

The Washington county that hosts one entrance of the Washington-Oregon Interstate 5 bridge has come out against tolling any lanes on its multibillion dollar replacement.

The replacement bridge across the Columbia River, estimated to cost anywhere between $3.2 billion and $4.8 billion, is to be financed to the tune of $1 billion from each Washington and Oregon. The remaining $1.2 billion to $2.8 billion will come from a combination of federal grants and tolling.

That final source has the Clark County Council up in arms, given the approximately 78,000 residents of Clark County who commute across the Columbia River to earn their livelihood.

“The Clark County residents who cross the bridge for work pay taxes to the state of Oregon. When we think about the additional funds from tolls that would be collected in multiple places in order to accommodate their commute — it is good reason for this council to take a negative position on that tolling,” said Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman in a statement to Clark County Today.

It’s this additional tax-via-toll on the commuting residents of Clark County which brought a unanimous vote last week in opposition to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to toll the I-5 and I-205 corridors.

The opposition whitepaper, released by the Clark County Council, argues “the tolling system, as proposed, places an unreasonable and inappropriate burden on Washington residents, low-income residents, those who cannot modify their work schedule, and overall those who can least afford the toll.”

The paper also acknowledges the need to raise the additional $1.2 billion dollars, but firmly opposes the burden to Washington residents. The paper and the Clark County Council point out that that there are currently no assurances from the Oregon Legislature that the tolling monies would even benefit the I-5 corridor project.

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