For whom the car tolls

A recent Oregonian article outlined the proposed Newberg-Dundee bypass toll road.

In light of the current push to consider toll roads in Oregon, it’s perhaps instructive to look at the experience at other states.  It’s a cautionary tale.

As this investigative report in the Denver Post found, 86% of toll roads built in 8 states in the last several years have failed to meet traffic projections.

Among other things the article suggests a conflict of interest between those who benefit from building the roads and consultants hired to make projections causes building more roads than are justified.

Others suggest that the toll road push is part of a broader right-wing agenda designed to privatize much of government.  For a good summary of some of the issues involved, check out this post from last August on the blog Unbossed.

What do folks think? Do toll roads belong in Oregon? 

Comments

  • sharon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I have no idea where Newberg/Dundee is. Only those who live there prob. know. And truckers. Those would be the only two demographics paying money into the tolls. Not cost effective. You know, ROI and all that.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Hello, Sharon, welcome to Oregon. As a former governor once said, "Please visit, but don't stay."

    Oh, just kidding. I talk to people all the time who grew up in Portland and have no idea where Newberg or Dundee are. FYI, Dundee is in the heart of Yamhill County wine country and also aboud midway between Portland and Spirit Mountain Casino (the Pacific Ocean is a few miles further). Through decades of mismanaged and uncoordinated traffic planning, traffic on Hwy. 99W hits a major bottleneck just west of Dundee, where the highway narrows from four lanes to two.

    The proposed by-pass would divert traffic around both Newberg and Dundee and connect with Hwy 18 near Dayton. Incidently, it will also pass right through my back yard (which would force ODOT to buy my property at fair market value) or just miss my property (which will substantially reduce its value).

    ODOT has contracted with an Australian firm to build the by-pass as a toll road. The Aussies must be aware of the same stats cited in the Denver Post article, because they are touting a different scheme. They want to put toll booths up on both the new road and on old Hwy 99 in the same stretch. They say this will guarantee that enough drivers use the new by-pass. Of course, this also would mean we are tolling a road that was built decades ago with taxpayer money.

    Out here in Yamhill County, being against the by-pass is tantamount to being for gay marriage and land use planning. But even the staunch proponents of the bypass are balking at this double toll idea. {Both Measures 36 and 37 passed by huge margins in the county last year, a double-barreled economic shot in the foot.) Even the benighted right wing county commission has come out against it, so I don't see this scheme flying.

    If gas hits $3.50 a gallon and holds there, and if the Warm Springs confederated tribes get to build their casino in Hood River, traffic on old Hwy 99 will peter out pretty quickly and we won't need the bypass.

  • Baloo (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I don't know about Newburg and Dundee, but what really needs to be a toll road is 238th Avenue/Hogan Road from the Gresham city line to the first intersection in Wood Village, proceeds going to Wood Village which has to maintain the road that Gresham abuses for free instead of using their own freeway onramp at Airport Way/181st Avenue...

  • (Show?)

    Out here in Yamhill County, being against the by-pass is tantamount to being for gay marriage and land use planning.

    People in Yamhill County are against land use planning? What's wrong with planning?

    The alternative is willy-nilly craziness - with storage facilities built on prime farmland, and a toxic waste facility next door....

  • (Show?)

    p.s. I remember when we used to call it "zoning".

  • Michael (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Kari writes: "p.s. I remember when we used to call it "zoning"." And of course it used to be for the purposes of racial discrimination. And still is in someplaces. Never happen here though. Hmmmmm. M.

  • (Show?)

    Having lived on the other coast.......... toll roads are just a way of life.....from the New Jersey Turnpike, to the major turnpike into Boston, entering New York City from Connecticut we threw our coins down the chute and moved along. Like the very serious need for a state sales tax, funding a road by tolls will offend our parochial souls.

  • John (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Indiana is central to understanding the Privatized Tolling issue. I hope you might visit this web page: http://www.i69tour.org/badmove.html

    Oregon Democrats must lead the nation to understand this issue. The problem for Republicans will the the conflict of Privatized Electronic Road Tolling vs Private Property and Privacy.

    Private Toll Taxation will not be popular long term, if it can be understood soon enough to stop it. There is a chink in this Republican privatization plan...we must understand and expose their soft underbelly.

  • Karl (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Toll roads cost everybody more so that a few can make a profit. They help stratify our society--The high flyin', high rollers on the toll roads and the rest of rabble who can't afford them on the deteriorating public roads. If they get a lot of users, they come with built in traffic jams--(the toll booths). But if we let our government blow all our (and our childrens') commons money on evil wars and give aways to the rich, I guess that's what we deserve.

  • Phil Jones (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Anyone who ever had to live with the annoyance of sitting in a line of cars at toll booths to pay the toll and have to dig for change, only to find you are a little short and have to break some paper money would be against the establishment of toll roads in Oregon. Public roads should be paid by the general public.

    It's amazing how we can find $Billions for wars and trips to Mars, but we can't seem to fund the highways we need right here on this planet.

  • (Show?)

    One of the interesting byproducts of Measure 47 is that it makes most toll-roads far too expensive to build.

    Gil Johnson's post shows why. If his land isn't bought through eminent domain, he can rightfully claim that his land values have been reduced through governmental action. That allows him to sue.

    In fact, everyone next to the road can sue. And I suspect many will, because in modern day politics it's all about how to get free money from the government.

  • Lee (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I find it strange that the toll road issue is being made into a democrate vs. republican issue. Argue the issue on its own merits/faults.

  • LT (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Kari writes: "p.s. I remember when we used to call it "zoning"." And of course it used to be for the purposes of racial discrimination. And still is in someplaces.

    Michael, would you rather live in a residential zone or a commercial zone?

    How about if a car dealership wanted to expand until they were next to an elementary school? If your kids attended that school would that added traffic be OK with you? When that happened here decades ago, it was the start of neighborhood organizations in this city--as I recall it involved a suit against the Planning Commission.

    I for one prefer farm use, commercial, residential, mixed, etc. as zoning designations rather than "anyone can build anything anywhere".

  • CLP (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Baloo:

    I didn't realize driving on roads in other cities was considered "abuse". Funny, I thought public roads were there for everyone to use.

    By the way, I've noticed some big retailers pop up in Wood Village in the last few years. I wonder how well they would fare without Gresham residents driving by them every day on the way to and from work.

  • Deb (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Gil said: ODOT has contracted with an Australian firm to build the by-pass as a toll road. The Aussies must be aware of the same stats cited in the Denver Post article, because they are touting a different scheme. They want to put toll booths up on both the new road and on old Hwy 99 in the same stretch. They say this will guarantee that enough drivers use the new by-pass. Of course, this also would mean we are tolling a road that was built decades ago with taxpayer money.

    Don't we have any local road builders? Don't we have enough outsourcing and unemployment because of it?

    A son lives in Florida. When we visit, he maps out the bypass roads for us to avoid the tolls. Sometimes we use his map. It's such a hassle - no tolls is another reason to love Oregon.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I think the Australian company is coming to the same conclusion every other examination of toll roads in Oregon has, people won't pay enough in tolls to cover the cost of building the road. The solution is to use other transportation money to pay part of the costs of construction. Of course that means draining away money from other transportation infrastructure.

    If you tolled the existing Highway 99W that would, by itself, reduce the level of traffic to a manageable level with the existing infrastructure. Of course that would also mean a real hit to development and property values in all those new commuter subdivisions being built in Yamhill County.

    The real problem for Newberg and Dundee is that the large amount of traffic going through their towns is making them unlivable. So the bypass is supposed to take through traffic out, while leaving the local traffic going into town. If we stop seeing tolls as some ideological privatization scheme, and treat them as a way to effectively manage what continues to be a public resource, they may make sense. But the libertarian ideologues in the Republican party who are pushing this stuff see the use of tolls to manage roads as "social engineering".

    BTW - I don't think that Measure 37 applies here. As I recall it is limited to compensation for lower values caused by the regulation of property, not by any government action. So if the government allows someone to build a pig farm next door to you, you have no claim, but the pig farmer does if they deny the request and it lowers his property value as a result.

  • Jon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    It's amazing how we can find $Billions for wars and trips to Mars, but we can't seem to fund the highways we need right here on this planet.

    Seems to me toll roads were always more of a "left wing agenda"...just a way to collect more taxes from us. Turning it into a "right wing agenda" is kinda funny, actually. Typical of partisan politics I guess.

    If they would build roads with the money they already take from us via gas taxes, then they wouldnt have to go to private firms. Instead they spend all that ODOT money on bike lanes and the commuter trains in Portland...or whatever else they can work it into. And they have what...5,000 engineers on the ODOT payroll..doing what, exactly? Apparently not building roads. Thats for the Aussies...

  • Jon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Don't we have any local road builders?

    Yeah, its called Oregon Department of Transportation.

  • Baloo (unverified)
    (Show?)

    It's abuse around the time five times the number of Greshamites as Wood Villagers use the road. Gresham tax dollars don't pay for 238th Avenue north of the Wood Village city line, Wood Village dollars do. Also, Wood Village doesn't have a single anything Gresham doesn't have save for WalMart, and that's why Powell's all dug up. Wood Village needs Gresham traffic like your six year old needs pinkeye.

  • Clay Fouts (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jon,

    That'd be a good point if it were accurate. As it is the highway system depends heavily on government handouts, with only about 51% of funds for highway expenditures coming from fuel taxes. About 4% comes from tolls. The rest come from other, non-user sources including the income taxes levied against people who don't use the highways.

    As for municipal/state DOTs building roads, PDOT just got reprimanded for doing too much of their own road maintenance and not sub-contracting out to enough lobbying interests. The DOTs are primarily administrative in purpose, not hands-on.

  • Ross Wiliams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Instead they spend all that ODOT money on bike lanes and the commuter trains in Portland

    Just to be clear, the Oregon constitution requires all the gas tax collected by the state goes into the roadway (that does include sidewalks and bike lanes - if the pedestrians and bikes are in the roadway cars have to move much slower).

    Some federal gas tax goes to mass transit. As was pointed out above, that is a very small amount compared to money from non-gas tax sources that help pay for roads. Almost all local streets are paid for by the homeowners.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Seems to me toll roads were always more of a "left wing agenda"...just a way to collect more taxes from us. Turning it into a "right wing agenda" is kinda funny, actually. Typical of partisan politics I guess.

    John Charles with the Cascade Policy Institute has always been an advocate of congestion pricing. I have never heard them described as left wing. There is definitely a wierd convergence on this issue between those on the left who are desperately seeking ways to pay for needed public services and those on the right who are free market ideologues.

    The problem is that the real value of tolls is in pricing existing capacity so that you don't need to pay for new capacity where it isn't really needed. You could avoid a billion dollar investment in a new bridge for I-5 across the Columbia if you just managed the existing capacity properly with tolls.

  • Michael (unverified)
    (Show?)

    LT writes: "Michael, would you rather live in a residential zone or a commercial zone?"

    LT you seem to be jumping to a conclusion, but maybe that is how you get your exercise. M.

  • (Show?)

    Out here in Yamhill County, being against the by-pass is tantamount to being for gay marriage and land use planning.

    Really? There sure were a lot of signs against it up along the highway this weekend.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The signs I saw were against the tolling of 99W, not the bypass itself. Though some people may be changing their minds.

    Kari, in an ealy post, you wondered about my statement about land use planning. The citizens of Yamhill County are generally opposed to the kind of land use planning prescribed by LCDC, despite the fact that the wine industry really needs this kind of planning.

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Actually, the toll road opponents found here: http://dundeeparkinglot.com/ are against the idea of a bypass as well as a toll road. And they're right on the money, I think.

    There's absolutely no reason ODOT can't make 4 lanes through Dundee and get rid of the stop light. No bypass is even needed.

    Alas, ODOT has once again shown its ineptitude. Way to go Teddy!

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    There's absolutely no reason ODOT can't make 4 lanes through Dundee and get rid of the stop light

    Except for its impact on the city of Dundee. Frankly, if people are sitting in congestion, its their own fault. They are the ones who create it. I don't know where these extremists got the idea that the roads are there only for their personal trips.

    If there is traffic backed up in Dundee they ought to put a light at the entrance to town and only let through the amount of traffic that fits the local streets. That's how ODOT does it with ramp meters for its freeways.

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Ross, according to the web site, ODOT has enough right of way to put 4-lanes through Dundee. I'm sure a compromise can be made that would make both sides happy. Apparently, up to 200 homes and business will be affected if the bypass goes through. It seems the 99 widening project would have lesser an impact.

    I would think land conservation advocates would champion the 99 widening proposal. It sure looks like 1000 fiends of Oregon does.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    ODOT has enough right of way to put 4-lanes through Dundee.

    That doesn't mean it is a good idea to use it for that purpose.

    I would think land conservation advocates would champion the 99 widening proposal. It sure looks like 1000 fiends of Oregon does.

    1000 Friends is a defender of farm and forest land which the bypass damages. I think it has opposed the bypass throughout the process. After sitting through presentations to the advisory committee, I am not sure they are wrong, but I am not sure they are entirely right either. The bypass as currently designed is not a very good idea, but sticking a four lane freeway through the middle of Dundee is not a good alternative.

  • Chris McMullen (unverified)
    (Show?)

    What's you suggestion Ross?

    99 is already there and is mostly 4 lanes up to Dundee. It makes total sense to expand the road that exists instead of paying millions in ridiculous toll road studies. Heck, the city of Dundee could be completely shifted 1/4 mile south for less then this toll road will cost.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)
    (Show?)

    What's you suggestion Ross?

    What's the problem? If the problem is downtown Dundee has too much traffic backing up in it, then you need to meter the traffic coming into town so that it backs up outside downtown. That solves that problem.

    If the problem is how long it takes people who want to drive through Dundee on their way to somewhere else then I think the question is how high a priority is that for any public investment. The fact is that you can't get people to pay enough in tolls to pay for an alternative to avoid the congestion in Dundee. I think that tells us the value the people who will benefit place on it - and its not very high.

    That doesn't mean we shouldn't make the investment, but there better be other benefits than just making trips faster for people caught in congestion. Because even those people don't place that much value on their time.

    99 is already there and is mostly 4 lanes up to Dundee.

    And the question you might ask ODOT is why they built a four lane highway without a plan for completing it. The traffic jams in Newberg and Dundee are hardly new and yet ODOT continued to invest in expanding capacity on both sides making the traffic problems worse. Essentially they moved all the congestion from elsewhere to Newberg and Dundee.

    Heck, the city of Dundee could be completely shifted 1/4 mile south for less then this toll road will cost.

    I doubt it. But I think the mindset that getting people from here to there is more important than the here, the there or whatever is in between is what creates these problems.

  • tom (unverified)
    (Show?)

    As a transportatiooon provider I make the trip through Newberg/Dundee-Mac. about six times a day (or more). There already is a by-pass if you know how to get there.

  • Rod Pelling (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Planned as a road, by 2030 the bypass will really become a major north-south highway (freeway). There is already a bottle-neck at the Boone Bridge at Willsonville on I-5 and 99E has its own bottle-neck at Oregon City. That reality must be confronted. But I don't think this bypass will be a benifit to the northern portion of Yamhill County. I feel it is unnecessary and will have a negative effect on livability and the economics of the upper portion (Newberg)of the valley. I am not against roads but feel it is very important that one fully understands what happens when a road is "put down"...it stays down. Ever seen a road "taken up"? No. They just get bigger over time. The upper Yamhill Valley is on the verge of becoming one of the nations primier wine producing areas. It has been likened to Napa Valley. Years ago the same mistake was made in Napa Valley and a highway was put in place. The valley quickly saw the mistaken direction and stopped further construction of the highway up the valley toward St Helena. What is needed are optons rather than another highway extention. Option 1. In Newberg, Springbrook has all the makings of a perfect "avenue" with four lanes and trees down the center. It could connect out at Wynooski where it could head west toward 99w south west of Dundee following a route established during the early bypass studies. Option 2. Dundee could and should accept the widening of 99W to four lanes. Again, I look at other "avenues" and the success they display in moving traffic smoothly ( Murray Blvd, Schools Ferry Road, Kruse Way, Nato Parkway ) Option 3. Establish Springbrook/Bell Road/North Valley Road as the feeder to Yamhill/Gaston/Forest Grove Option 4. Establish the existing rail line as a rail commute line that could extend from McMinnville to Dundee, Newberg, Sherwood, Tigard, Lake Oswego and Portland.

    Those four options if made available to the travelling public would not require the construct of the bypass; which, once in place, will become a freeway in the future. Once you put down a road...you never take it up. Is Los Angeles paradise?

  • David (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I live in Yamhill county and am hesitant to trust our current Oregon government to facilitate this project responsibly. So, I am not really against the idea, however, I am very "gun-shy" do to the jaded history our state has in special "projects" in general. Eg...Convention center, HWY 217, DMV computer system, etc...etc....etc...

    Whatever happens at least they are having an outside company evaluate it rather than one of our current debacle prone government offices. Of course, if our state government would stop spewing money down the drain on bureaucracy and wasted programs, we would have the money and this would not be an issue.

    At least they aren't proposing we put tracking devices on our cars to facilitate this. This makes as much sense making Abraham's speeding ticket a front page story? What's with that? I might consider being behind something like this if I was convince it wasn't just another project destined for utter failure at the expense of already over taxed Oregonians.

    David

open discussion

connect with blueoregon