Oregon petition effort to have voters decide on tolls sidelined

August 26, 2020

Keith Goble

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As the November election nears in Oregon, a petition initiative to let voters decide whether the state should toll existing roads or bridges will not be included on the ballot.

The proposed ballot initiative failed to garner the required number of signatures to be placed on the fall ballot.

A group led by state Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, former state Rep. Julie Parrish and a Gladstone, Ore., planning commissioner did not collect the nearly 150,000 required signatures to qualify for the fall ballot. The signature process began in December 2018 and ended in June.

Toll pursuit

The Oregon Transportation Commission voted unanimously in 2018 to seek federal approval for tolling Interstates 5 and 205 through the Portland area. The commission is also interested in collecting information for a “seamless loop” of tollways around the state’s largest city.

Advocates say tolling the area’s highway network could go a long way to address traffic congestion.

Initiative Petition 10

Initiative Petition 10 called for amending the state constitution to require voters to approve adding tolls to existing infrastructure. Voter approval would be necessary both statewide and in the county where the toll would be collected.

An exception from the rule would be made for toll projects that add “net new capacity.” Specifically, the term would apply to the “expansion of transportation infrastructure which did not exist prior to Jan. 1, 2018, and which has not been converted from a previous form of transportation infrastructure” that has already been built and/or operates with public dollars.

Oregon’s constitution requires toll revenue to be used for purposes that include construction, reconstruction, repairs, maintenance, operation and use of public roadways.

What’s next?

Adding an initiative petition to the ballot is a multiple-step process. Once signatures have been collected in support of adding a question to the ballot, backers must then submit signatures to the state for verification. After completion of this process, a draft ballot title is written by the Oregon Department of Justice for release and public comment.

The Oregon Department of Transportation earlier this month began accepting public comment on plans to toll portions of Interstate 205. Comments are due by Sept. 16 and can be submitted through a survey. Recent Land Line coverage on the comment period is available.

The petitioners have indicated they will try again to have the toll question included on the 2022 midterm election.

More Land Line coverage of news from Oregon is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.