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Transportation Commission seeks $5.50 toll on Narrows bridge

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Dec. 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm with 7 Comments »
December 15, 2010 2:59 pm

The state Transportation Commission today moved toward setting a $5.50 toll for motorists who bypass Tacoma Narrows bridge tollbooths without an electronic pass.

Bills with the new photo tolling rate would be sent by mail to a vehicle’s owner after a license plate is caught on camera.

Cash tollbooths would remain on the bridge for now, charging $4 per vehicle. Drivers with Good to Go passes would continue to pay $2.75.

The vote was 4-0 with Chairman Philip Parker not voting and two vacant seats. The commission will take a final vote Jan. 26 after two meetings to collect public comment in Gig Harbor.

In setting the rate, the commission rejected a call by a citizen advisory commission to set a higher rate  of $7 to discourage people from skipping the tollbooths. Members of the citizen panel predicted the $5.50 rate would cost the bridge needed revenue, eventually driving up tolls for everyone.

But the Department of Transportation estimated the extra costs and losses connected with photo tolling would be just $1.50, and  suggested adding that to the Good to Go rate for a total of $4.25.

Alternatively, DOT said, the $1.50 could be added to the cash rate of $4. That’s what the commission did, roughly splitting the difference between the largest and smallest proposed rates.

The commission is setting the toll after the Legislature last winter authorized photo tolling and created an 80-day grace period for Narrows bridge drivers who don’t pay. Previously, those drivers caught on camera were immediately hit with a $52 fine.

Photo tolls are scheduled to start in spring when DOT starts a new system for statewide tolling and begins charging tolls on the Route 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington using transponders and photo tolling. No toll booths will be used.

Advisory commission members want the state to try out photo tolling on Route 520 first and move to the Narrows bridge only after that experiment shows what costs and revenues to expect. Members are skeptical that DOT estimates of savings will pan out.

Transportation Commission members said they couldn’t bump up the rate.

“You’re really asking us to put a penalty on this thing, and I don’t think we have that authority,” Richard Ford of King County told advisory board members.

Several Transportation Commission members thought even the $5.50 rate seemed high, but member Carol Moser of Benton County said it needed to be high enough to encourage buying Good to Go passes.

“If we made it so easy for people to just pay by mail, there wouldn’t be as much of an incentive to buy a transponder,” Moser said.

Initiative 1053, which voters approved in November, could still throw a wrench in tolling plans. The initiative says a fee may only be imposed by the Legislature, which I-1053 author Tim Eyman says means the Transportation Commission can’t raise tolls or ferry fees.  I-1053 supporter Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, has asked Attorney General Rob McKenna for a legal opinion on the  board’s authority.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. The toll on the bridge was only supposed to be collected until the bridge was paid for. When will that be? Uh hu! NEVER! Once we raise the toll, it will NEVER go back down and in fact keep on increasing all the time! THANK YOU Tim Eyeman! I’m behind you all the way! Keep up the good work! We want the flat $30 car tabs back that we voted for you crooks! I’m SO tired of new fees and taxes being imposed without our vote! Taxation without representation…..gee..where have we heard THAT before!? Now you want to raise the toll on the bridge to $5.50, make it a photo toll booth and get rid of all the toll takers working in the toll booths?! Thumbs up! Way to raise the unemployment rate and still whine you need more of our tax dollars! Crooks!

  2. Why would a $52 fine be replaced with a simple buck fifty increase?

    I’ll bet nobody is paying up and the backlog is out of control!

  3. Look at the long range picture–the tolls will never go away!!! Example, in 66-67 there was a toll on the new Will Rogers turnpike in Okla. Guess what…you still pay the tolls. Politicians and administrators are looking out for themselves!

  4. Kevindot1 says:

    I thought I remember that it was expected to take like 15-20 years to pay the bridge off, and subsequently remove the tolls. Though I could be way off with those numbers. I would like to see that again. TNT, can you find that data on how long until the new bridge’s debt are paid and the likelihood of them actually removing the tolls completely at that time? I have faith that the tolls will one day, go away. Just as they did on the 1950 Narrows Bridge and the Fox Island bridge.

  5. BB40 – You’ve got my vote !!!

  6. lorie1000 says:

    i have a transponder, no money on it though, so when i have a dr appt in gig harbor, cross the bridge, i pay the $4. i dont have $30 to put on the acct, i will switch drs . wa. state bleeding us dry again.

  7. That’s a pair to draw to – Tim Eyeman and Pam Roach?

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