State Rep. Richard Vial, a Republican whose district includes Sherwood, King City and Tigard's River Terrace area, introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow cities and counties to form service districts to finance, build and maintain toll roads and expressways.
Vial, who was joined in introducing House Bill 3231 by Clatskanie Rep. Brad Witt, represents a sprawling district in Washington and western Clackamas counties that has no major road connection from its north, in Hillsboro, to its south, in Wilsonville.
For decades, people have talked about a new freeway that would form a loop around the west side of the Portland metro, taking traffic off Interstate 5 south of Portland and then reconnecting with a highway — perhaps Highway 26, north of Hillsboro and Forest Grove — somewhere in Washington County.
Plans for the so-called "Westside Bypass" were ultimately dropped in the 1990s, although as Washington and western Clackamas counties' populations surge, talk of the never-built freeway has resurfaced in recent years.
Vial said a new freeway west of Portland would relieve major traffic congestion on I-5 heading into and out of downtown Portland and on Interstate 205 on the south and east side of the metro area.
"I don't want this bill to interfere with a transportation package from (the Legislature)," Vial said Wednesday. "What this bill does is, it lets local jurisdictions get together and start the planning process. That's all."
Vial hasn't drawn any map for the Westside Bypass, but he said it definitely would run through Washington County and could include Yamhill, northern Marion, Columbia or Multnomah counties as well.
"If someone steps up to do this, it'll probably be Washington County leaders," Vial said. "But they're going to have to go north or south of the county to get it done."
HB 3231 would explicitly allow both the implementation of tolls and the private construction and operation of express routes, in partnership with the district where they would operate.
That would take some getting used to for Portland-area residents — there are no toll roads currently in Oregon. But it could be an answer to the region's growing problem with too many cars and too few lanes for them to travel on.
The bill has bipartisan backing. Along with Witt, Rep. Brian Clem of Salem and Sen. Mark Hass of Beaverton are co-sponsors. Republicans Ron Noble, another freshman state representative from Yamhill, and Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas are also co-sponsoring the bill.
A first reading was held on the bill Wednesday.
Vial is a Scholls resident and former Washington County planning commissioner. A freshman lawmaker, elected last November over Wilsonville Democrat Ray Lister to an open seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, he serves District 26. The district runs from Hillsboro to Wilsonville west of Aloha, Beaverton, Tigard and Tualatin.
KOIN 6 News contributed to this article.