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Latest transportation budget calls for replacement of transponder readers

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
April 19, 2011 1:14 pm

The latest and possibly final version of the state’s transportation spending plan calls for replacing “as soon as practicable” the machines that read Good to Go passes on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Lawmakers are reacting to news that the machines can’t read the latest generation of the transponders. They call in their budget for new readers that “are able to read new and existing” transponders.

Replacement machines would cost $620,000, says Sen. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor, who pushed for the budget language and said federal money would likely cover the cost.

Wherever WSDOT finds the money, lawmakers prohibited it from leaving bridge toll payers on the hook. They called for buying new machines “at no cost to the Tacoma Narrows toll bridge account.”

The Department of Transportation has said it is working to find a way to replace the machines, which could require renegotiation of a contract with manufacturer TransCore. In the meantime, the agency says contractors watching camera footage from the bridge are catching most of the drivers anyway and charging their accounts. Cars they miss may cost $600,000 a year in lost tolls.

The Senate is poised to vote on the new 254-page proposed transportation budget, which Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said reflects the result of negotiations between the Senate and House.

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