Tolling critics say ODOT survey was slanted to get positive feedback

October 1, 20230

Political leaders and residents of West Linn are frustrated by a recent ODOT survey, which they said didn’t allow them to express discontentment over future tolls.

By Thomas Shults at KGW News

WEST LINN, Ore. — West Linn residents are frustrated over a recent survey from the Oregon Department of Transportation which they said did not allow people to express their negative opinions about future tolling plans.

West Linn Mayor Rory Bialostosky said the survey was slanted in favor of the tolling plan.

“The state needs to embrace public opposition,” Bialostosky said.


For years, controversy has swirled around the future of tolling along I-5 and I-205. This past month, an ODOT survey asked people to choose between three potential tolling options.

But the questions, Bialostosky said, painted an overly rosy picture of the outcome that tolling would bring.

“There is one question, for example, that asks, ‘Do you think it’s reasonable to pay a few dollars for a faster trip on I-5 and I-205?’” Bialostosky said. “We don’t know how much it’s going to cost.”

KGW previously reported that ODOT is considering “variable tolling,” with tolling costs ranging from $.50 to $2.20 per toll location, depending on traffic congestion. Since the agency wants to toll both the Tualatin River and Abernethy bridges, a round-trip up and down I-205 during peak hours could cost as much as $8.80 per day.

ODOT also told city leaders that tolling would increase traffic on city roads, Bialostosky said, as some drivers try to find ways to avoid the tolls. He said the state estimated a 1% uptick overall in city road traffic. But he hasn’t seen any data detailing how each road will be affected.

“We’re not getting that information,” Bialostosky said.

In a statement, ODOT said the survey was just to help the public learn what has been studied so far. They also want the public to understand tradeoffs between three different approaches to building the tolling system.

But Bialostosky said the state has ignored criticism of the plan.

“So, it’s a flawed way of getting public input that really doesn’t represent the elephant in the room,” Bialostosky said.

The elephant in the room — that many Oregonians don’t want tolls.

“I think it’s a really discriminatory thing that they’re doing, because they’re focusing on one area,” said Linda Swartley, a West Linn resident.

In February, before Gov. Kotek put the plan on pause until 2026, ODOT released an environment assessment of Abernethy and Tualatin River Bridge tolls. The assessment estimated that the average household would pay $575 in tolls.

But as tolling plans move forward, West Linn residents don’t think the state is listening to their concerns.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Bialostosky said. “There doesn’t have to be tolling, there are solutions.”

John Ley

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