ODOT gets green light to study freeway tolling on parts of I-5, I-205

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The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) applied for government approval to keep studying the idea of tolling two stretches of Oregon roads; seven miles of Interstate 5 through central Portland, and a chunk of I-205 near the Abernathy bridge in Clackamas County.

Transportation officials call it a "small step, but an important one" in what likely will be a long road.

"Once we get federal approval, it’s going to be years before we get tolling" says ODOT spokeperson Don Hamilton. "We have to go through a lot of the analysis of this. We have to understand the technology of how we’ll be collecting tolls, and we have to maintain the infrastructure."

The feds say they have to get more public input.

The responses might sound like what you hear from Sarah and Noah Moreno, who just moved to the area this week from Houston, Texas.

"You can’t get out of our area without getting on a toll road, and it’s expensive, it cost a lot of money" says Sarah Moreno. "That was one thing we were really excited about moving here, we mentioned we don’t have to worry about toll roads."

Hamilton says one thing ODOT will look closely at is 'diversion', where people take alternate routes to avoid paying tolls.

Daniel Moreno says that has caused a lot of traffic jams between the toll booths around Houston, where most cars have a tag that gets recorded by a sensor to show who to send the bill to.

"Once you’re out there, and you have a toll tag, you don’t think about it after a while, and you end up going through all these gates and without thinking about it get charged for each one, so you rack up a lot of tolls really quickly" says Moreno.

But before you start calculating how much you could be paying in tolls, be patient, Hamilton says it will be several years just for the next phase of study and getting public input.

"We’ve done that online, we’ve done that with surveys, we’ve done that with public meetings, we’ll continue to use several different avenues to get public comment on what they like, what they don’t like, what the myths are, what the realities of are of all of this," says Hamilton.

But the Moreno family doesn't see a bright future for them, or their 16-month old son, who may well get his drivers license before Oregon sees toll booths on the highways.

:In Texas, they actually end up giving the control of the road to a private company, so you’re paying to drive on a road that’s already been built with your tax dollars. "

That's something that may be even farther down the road for Oregon, if ever.

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