Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.

Comments came roaring back this week with strong reader discussion threads on our posts about spicy exchanges at the legislature and a new initiative on engagement from the City of Portland. We fielded several “comment of the week” nominations, and have chosen a winner…

The ODOT freeway tolling issue is complicated, but a commenter named Adam, in a colorful extended metaphor which emphasized the trust issue, compared ODOT to “used car salesmen” and made the point that tolling—how the money is used and how it is implemented—is essentially a political question. He called on lawmakers to put forth a vision.

Here’s what Adam wrote:

No one trusts ODOT because its leaders and spokespeople speak and behave like used car salesmen. They’re hacks who use obvious cloak and dagger tricks to placate and obfuscate and muddle and tire out their “customers,” until they buy the lemon as is, with that TruCoat included.

ODOT is supposed to be managed and staffed by professional civil servants who do the bidding of elected officials, like Governor Kotek, and the Legislative Assembly. These officials need to be telling ODOT what the vision for tolling is and crafting laws based on that vision. If that vision is that tolling can only be used to fund new freeways and the maintenance of existing freeways, so be it, if the voters don’t mind. But treating ODOT like it’s some thinktank of innovative transportation policies and multi-modal solutions is foolhardy. ODOT builds roads for cars and trucks. That’s it. They’re not really qualified to do anything else. They can’t even manage a highway construction budget consistently well.

Asking this ODOT to get back to you with reliable data and analysis of anything other than how many lanes they think the ideal freeway ought to have, is like asking Jerry Lundegaard to speak with his manager about removing that TruCoat charge from the price of the car.

Lawmakers need to develop their tolling vision and strategy on their own and hope ODOT can follow their directions whenever the time comes to implement the tolling plan.

Thank you Adam! You can find Adam’s comment and lively discussion under the original post.

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