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Oregon Will Give Washington A Voice In Developing Portland Freeway Tolls

<p>Early morning traffic crosses the Interstate 5 bridge, which spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington states in Vancouver, Wash.</p>

Don Ryan


Early morning traffic crosses the Interstate 5 bridge, which spans the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington states in Vancouver, Wash.

Washington will get a bigger role in helping develop a plan for congestion-relief tolls on Portland area freeways, Oregon transportation officials promised Monday.

The officials said Washington will get three voting members on the 15-20 person advisory committee developing the plan. Previously, Washington was given just one voting slot, for Clark County.

"All along we've wanted to ensure that there is a very broad, regional discussion about implementing value pricing on I-5 and I-205," said Travis Brouwer, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Transportation. 

"Value pricing" is the way Oregon officials describe tolls aimed at reducing congestion.

The increased representation for Washington comes as the issue has gained increasing visibility among officials on the northern side of the Columbia River. 

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., has been pursuing legislation to block the tolls, saying she fears they would be unfair to her constituents who commute into Oregon.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Friday weighed in with a more moderate approach. She called for greater representation on the advisory committee, a plan that Brown readily accepted. Under Murray's proposal, the Washington State Department of Transportation will get a voting slot on the committee, instead of just an observer position. Additionally, the City of Vancouver will get a full membership.

"We felt it was important to accommodate Sen. Murray's request and give a greater voice to those in southwest Washington," said Brouwer, adding that he expected the advisory committee to have around 20 members.

Herrera Beutler's spokeswoman, Angeline Riesterer, said in an email that the added representation is "not even close to a solution."

She added that "Jaime won't be satisfied until we get acceptable answers on exactly who Oregon plans to toll, for how long, and what they're planning to pay for. Putting a few Washingtonians on a committee where they can be easily steamrolled by an 80 percent Oregon majority does nothing to relieve Jamie's concerns."

The $5.3 billion transportation bill approved by the Oregon Legislature this year called for congestion pricing plans to be developed in conjunction with freeway improvement projects for the Rose Quarter section of Interstate 5 and the Oregon City-West Linn area of Interstate 205.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.