This morning, the Port of Hood River issued a notice that, due to the risk of the spread of the coronavirus in our community, the Port would temporarily stop accepting cash payments for tolls at the bridge. This means that cash-paying customers will cross for free. The bridge will remain open to all vehicle traffic, but in order to remove all person-to-person contact at the toll plaza, we must stop taking cash payments. Cash payments will no longer be required beginning 12:01 a.m., March 18. The “BreezeBy” electronic tolling system will remain active.
This is a temporary measure in response to the threat of the coronavirus entering our community. At this time the Port will continue electronic tolling since it does not involve person-to-person contact.
- The bridge will remain open to all vehicle traffic.
- The automatic gates in the BreezeBy lanes will be lifted and remain open during this period.
- Vehicles without BreezeBy transponders will pass through the BreezeBy lane – there will be no need to stop and pay.
Tolling agencies throughout the country are responding to the coronavirus pandemic and are working together to share information on best practices. Many tolling agencies in the western U.S. are no longer accepting cash payments and implementing other social distancing measures. However, no tolling agency has suspended electronic tolling at this time. Most tolling agencies have a pay-by-plate billing option for customers without transponder accounts, in which a motorist receives a bill in the mail for their tolls after the crossing. The Port is working to implement such a pay-by-plate billing system, but it will not be ready until summer. If it were operational, the Port would have diverted cash payments to a pay-by-plate billing at this time.
We are hearing your feedback that suspension of cash tolls while keeping electronic tolling active is unfair. In response, please know that this action meets our common objectives to:
- Limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission into our community from cash handling and person-to-person contacts at the toll booth.
- Mitigate traffic impacts and keep the bridge open to all vehicle traffic.
- Maintain all other normal operations to the greatest degree possible.
The costs and expenses to maintain the nearly 100-year old bridge remain, and therefore it is important to continue normal operations and tolling as much as possible. Since electronic tolling requires no person-to-person contact and doesn’t present a risk for transmission, it will continue for now.
This is a temporary solution and not a perfect one. We are in a rapidly evolving local and national situation that is impacting all our lives in direct and meaningful ways. The Port of Hood River Commission and staff will continue to monitor all factors and our approach to any aspect of Port operations is almost certain to change. The highest priority is protecting community, customer and staff safety in any way we can. Public input is appreciated at any time.
Thank you for your understanding.
Michael McElwee Executive DirectorPort of Hood River