An op-ed by State Treasurer Jim McIntire that appeared last Friday apparently caused a bit of a ruckus over on the Gig Harbor side of the Tacoma Narrows bridge. State lawmakers and city officials, concerned about what McIntire’s recommended bridge toll revenue target would do to toll rates, conferenced with him last week.
Now, McIntire has sent the Washington State Transportation Commission (which sets toll rates) a letter suggesting another option: Instead of raising tolls enough to in a single year build a cushion equal to 110 percent of the bridge’s debt service costs, McIntire says he could support a phased approach to keep toll rates as low as possible. He suggests a coverage ratio of 105 percent beginning July 1 and a coverage rate of 110 percent the following year.
That would still mean higher tolls. Today’s coverage ratio is only 101 percent and would fall to 69 percent if the commission did not raise tolls. (The Narrows bridge bonds are on an escalating repayment schedule designed to keep tollpayers’ costs low in the early years). The Narrow citizens advisory committee last year recommended keeping Good to Go rates at $2.75 and raising cash tolls from $4 to $5, but the treasurer’s office said those rates wouldn’t raise enough money.