From Maks Goldenshteyn in our Olympia bureau:
Toll rates on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge would be upped to $3.25 for drivers with transponders and $5 for drivers who pay cash under a recommendation made Thursday by the Washington State Transportation Commission.
The commission passed the recommendation by a vote of 4-3.
The proposed rate hikes fell in line with the wishes of State Treasurer James McIntire, who wants toll rates to eventually generate revenue equaling 110 percent of the bridge’s debt costs as a way to guard against events that might impact traffic volumes, and thus toll revenue.
The Citizens Advisory Committee has 20 days to respond to the Transportation Commission’s findings and to hold public hearings. The commission will release its official toll proposal for public review this spring, with public meetings to follow. Whatever changes are made won’t take effect until July 1.
“This is not a final decision,” said Commission chair Carol Moser Thursday.
McIntire has softened his stance a tad after his Jan. 8 op-ed in the The News Tribune upset some folks on the Gig Harbor side of the bridge who are concerned about cost increases. He’s now recommending a coverage ratio of 105 percent for 2011 and 110 percent the year after.
Current toll rates cover only 101 percent of the debt, and that figure would fall to 69 percent if toll fees were to go unchanged.
But the commission’s proposed fee increase for transponder users are still higher than the $2.75 the citizens committee thinks Good to Go! users should pay. Both the Commission and the citizens board agree on the $5 cost for cash payers.