Letter to the editor: Will our elected representatives step up and fight for us?


Clark County residents shouldn’t pay for Oregon’s transportation projects. Yet, that is exactly what Oregon is demanding. They want expensive tolls to drive on Oregon freeways and new taxes to pay for TriMet’s MAX light rail on the Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR).

Recent news reports indicate Oregon is preparing to charge up to $15.80 in tolls for a one way trip from Vancouver to Wilsonville on Interstate 205. Using Interstate 5, it was estimated to cost $14.05. At $28 to $31 per day for a round trip, that $600 per month cost would be devastating for most families.

ODOT plans for two separate charges. One to cross the bridges (either the new Interstate Bridge or the Abernethy Bridge in Oregon City), and a separate per mile charge to drive on the freeways. In both instances, the rates would vary by time of day.

Portland’s TriMet is demanding Clark County citizens provide “new revenues” (aka taxes) for the operation and maintenance (O&M) of their MAX light rail into Vancouver. The 3-mile extension of the Yellow Line is the transit component of the proposed $7.5 billion Interstate Bridge Replacement. The transit component will possibly cost $2 billion, or about $666 million per mile, and will travel just 14 mph.

Last summer, TriMet told the IBR they needed “new revenue” from both sides of the Columbia River to pay to operate the Yellow Line extension into Vancouver. There has been no further information demanded by Vancouver or Washington representatives on “how much” those new taxes might be.

Keep in mind that C-Tran presently offers the only transit service across the Columbia River. They have never asked Oregon or TriMet to pay for the O&M costs of their service on the Oregon side of the river. Additionally, Clark County citizens paid $229 million in Oregon income taxes in 2020, the most recent information available.

Prior to the pandemic lockdowns, C-Tran offered seven separate bus lines across the river using both I-5 and also I-205. They have consolidated and reduced that service during the pandemic to just five lines. Total “boardings” over both bridges has dropped to just 916 on an average weekday in 2022, meaning about 458 people since an average passenger boards twice a day. Transit ridership across the Columbia River has been in decline for over a decade, when there were about 3,200 daily boardings.

TriMet has not raised passenger fares for a decade. Passenger fares only covered about 15% of MAX light rail operating costs in 2022.

Here in Clark County, passenger fares only covered about 7% of C-Tran’s operating costs.

Clark County residents should not be asked to pay for Oregon transportation projects, either via tolls on roads that are already paid for, or via taxes to support Portland’s TriMet light rail. The question is, will our elected representatives step up and fight for us? So far, the silence has been deafening.

John Ley,