Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer
Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee, pressed U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg on the department’s ability to prevent state-led tolling proposals from moving forward on federal highways.
Chavez-DeRemer relayed Oregonians’ concerns that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) failed to gather feedback from the public or conduct a thorough study to examine I-5 and I-205 tolling’s potential impact on low-income families and communities. Specifically, she asked Buttigieg if the department could deny tolling proposals from moving forward if it is determined the project was carried out without thorough consideration or public input.
Click HERE to view Chavez-DeRemer’s remarks and questioning.
“ODOT’s proposal has encountered fierce opposition. My position is clear: I oppose tolling. At the local level, opposition has united Republicans, Democrats, mayors, and county commissioners, state legislators, and countless residents and commuters. The governor ordered a so-called ‘pause’ on tolling until early 2026. Even so, ODOT continues its preparations for tolling,” Chavez-DeRemer said.
Chavez-DeRemer continued, “ODOT has failed to engage the public on tolling. In June, an ODOT official admitted that they ‘missed the mark’ on public outreach. Projects involving the federal government typically meet friction. Surprisingly, when it comes to tolling, it seems that state officials can impose tolls on federal roads in face of public opposition and despite shoddy planning and outreach.”
When asked if the USDOT could deny a tolling project if the state failed to engage in sufficient public outreach, Buttigieg replied, “If a project sponsor fails to do appropriate outreach, that can lead to a NEPA failure or a Title VI concern, and in those scenarios, that could lead to the project not getting cleared by our department.”
Last month, Chavez-DeRemer introduced legislation that would permanently prevent ODOT’s tolling proposal from moving forward. Specifically, the No Tolls on Oregon Roads Act prohibits the use of federal funds for tolling on I-5 and I-205 and prohibits the USDOT from approving I-5 and I-205 tolling projects. She has also introduced the Tolling Transparency Act, which would require the USDOT to conduct an Economic Impact Study for any major tolling project and prevent the implementation of tolling until the study is complete.