State representative calls for holistic audit of ODOT in light of ballooning project costs

January 31, 20240

Deep-seated lack of trust in ODOT

By Annessa Hartman

Portland Tribune Jan 16, 2024

Contrary to popular belief, tolling is not a new topic for Gladstone, Oregon City or West Linn residents. I have been waiting for a robust conversation on tolling for a long time, beginning as a city councilor in beautiful Gladstone, where we interacted with ODOT but were consistently ignored.

We finally began that conversation on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, during the Subcommittee on Transportation Planning meeting at Gladstone High School. I want to thank the many community members who voiced their serious concerns about ODOT’s tolling program at that meeting.

While we don’t agree on everything, we can all agree that we share a deep mistrust and lack of faith in ODOT. We have heard loud and clear that ODOT has failed to meaningfully involve our community in its decision-making around tolling.

In becoming a state representative, I centered my work around ensuring local leaders have a seat at the table, doing my best to uplift their concerns, and utilizing my office to bring recognition to issues that our cities and county continue to highlight.

I believe that state representatives owe it to our constituents to be their advocates, to be the voice that echoes their worries, and to ensure that their needs are not ignored.

Our communities need this committee to mean something. It must be more than just another rubber-stamping exercise where concerns are brushed aside, and decisions are made without genuine consideration of the impact on the lives of the people we represent.

To be fair to my fellow legislators, after spending the past year in the legislature, I know that ODOT has told them a vastly different story than the reality of my constituents. That’s why I’m calling on the committee to do three things:

First, the committee should find that there exists a widespread and deep-seated lack of trust among the public in ODOT’s tolling program, as evidenced by the numerous complaints and expressions of concern.

Second, the committee should call for a comprehensive review of transportation funding options to identify potential alternatives that may better serve the public interest.

Finally, in light of ODOT’s constantly ballooning project costs and recent requests for an additional $39 million, the committee should find that there is sufficient need for a holistic audit of ODOT in its entirety, analyzing the agency’s resource optimization financial management and overall performance to ensure best practices.

We’ve heard from some incredibly intelligent and dedicated community members and leaders. They have the ideas, and they really want to be a part of the solution and discussion, so we need to let them. I will be a very thankful legislator when equity is truly centered and the people of Clackamas County are actually listened to.

Rep. Annessa Hartman, D-Gladstone/Oregon City, is a member of the Joint Special Subcommittee On Transportation Planning.

John Ley

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