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Tag: Tacoma Narrows Bridge


Tim Eyman toll restrictions likely to reach ballot

Tim Eyman today turned in what he says are 327,000 signatures in support of an initiative that would restrict tolls in Washington.

It’s likely enough to ensure voters decide on I-1125. The initiative would call for ending tolls on a project when construction is paid off, and requiring tolls to stay at the same price all day rather than rising and falling with traffic as they do on Route 167’s toll lanes.

His measure would also buttress existing state laws and constitutional provisions that:

  • keep tolls on one road or bridge from being used to pay for another project.

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New transponders don’t work on Tacoma Narrows bridge

Drivers who sign up for the state’s “Good to Go” electronic tolls are paying $5 for a transponder that is unreadable on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

It’s no malfunction, just a quirk of the ongoing changeover to a statewide tolling system. A new generation of transponder windshield stickers introduced this year doesn’t match up with the reader machines on the bridge.

The discrepancy should be invisible to drivers, according to the state Department of Transportation, because there are also cameras on the bridge to catch license plates as they pass. The cameras send the image to workers in the new tolling customer service center in Seattle’s University District, who check whether the car is signed up for Good to Go and charge the driver’s account $2.75.

The state is working with contractor TransCore to try to replace the readers, either in June 2012 when its contract expires or even sooner, WSDOT Toll Division Director Craig Stone said.

But it is raising some eyebrows on the bridge’s citizen advisory committee and in the state Legislature. Sen. Derek Kilmer called it “outrageous.”

“I think it’s a little nutty that there wouldn’t be a presupposition that the transponders actually work the day the contractor comes on board,” said Kilmer, a Gig Harbor Democrat. “It raises concerns about the DOT’s ability to structure contracts in a way that makes sense and protects toll payers.”

TransCore’s contract was modified when the state moved to a new back-office system run by Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp. in preparation for tolls that are planned to start this spring on the Route 520 bridge.

“It allowed us to go to the new transponders, which is saving everybody money,” Stone said.

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Push for fee-setting authority for Transportation Commission dropped for now

Democrats in the state House have set aside for now an effort to restore fee-setting authority to the Transportation Commission, leaving an impediment to the start of photo tolling on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Tim Eyman-backed, voter-approved Initiative 1053 took away that authority, and Democrats sought to give it back, saying the Legislature isn’t the place for setting the dollar amounts of bridge tolls and ferry fares.

But House members unanimously dropped that idea from a budget-bill this morning over legal concerns that it didn’t fit within the topic of the bill. Republicans had made that argument since it

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House budget plan would clear path to Narrows bridge photo tolls

The Transportation Commission met last night in Gig Harbor to hear from the public on its proposed $5.50 photo tolls on the Tacoma Narrows bridge, and the board expects to take a final vote next Wednesday.

One other thing stands in the way of having the new scheme ready for drivers: Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053, which voters approved in November and which requires all fees to get a vote of the Legislature, not just an appointed board.

An informal legal opinion by the attorney general’s office advises lawmakers they can re-delegate that fee-setting power without changing I-1053 (and therefore

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Transportation Commission seeks $5.50 toll on Narrows bridge

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.

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Narrows Bridge toll collections fall; rate increases uncertain

Money coming in to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the 2010 fiscal year that ended last month fell $1.2 million short of what was expected.

Revenues were 2.4 percent less than had been projected as recently as February, mostly because traffic didn’t meet expectations. The bridge brought in $828,000 less in tolls than expected at that time. Money from toll violations and transponder sales were down, too.

Revenue dropoffs mirror what transportation officials have seen all over the state, Toll Division Director Craig Stone told the state Transportation Commission today.

Still, nearly 14.3 million vehicles crossed the bridge during the

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Grace period approved for tolls

Toll violators will get a second chance to pay what they owe under a law signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire today.

Lawmakers created a grace period for fines on the Tacoma Narrows bridge and future toll roads. Drivers will have 80 days to pay the $4 toll and an administrative fee before the fine kicks in to bump the cost to $52.

It’s part of a bill passed during this year’s regular legislative session to allow toll projects like the bridge to keep all the money from fines that now go mostly to the court system. The new funding

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Transportation Commission: No toll increases this year


Good news for Tacoma Narrows Bridge commuters: The state Transportation Commission has decided not to raise tolls – both Good to Go and cash – for the coming year.

Earlier this year, an increase in the cash tolls seemed definite. But the transportation budget approved by the Legislature last week will allow the bridge to postpone its repayment of a $5.3 million start-up loan from the state’s gas-tax funds.

By avoiding paying that debt now, the bridge doesn’t need to raise tolls, transportation commissioner Carol Moser said after the board’s decision today.

The commission had been considering increasing electronic tolls by 50 cents to $3.25 and cash tolls by a dollar to $5.

The prospect of frequent users with electronic transponders paying more to cross the bridge brought a crowd of 200 to a meeting of the citizen advisory board on tolls.

The advisory panel recommended freezing the electronic tolls, but the Transportation Commission went even farther by holding both cash and electronic rates steady. Infrequent users already pay more than their fair share, board members said.

But Moser warned that commissioners will revisit the issue and tolls will have to go up eventually, as the bridge faces repaying bonds. She said:

We’re just deferring it, hoping that the economy is better, that people are better positioned to be able to afford an increase in the toll rate. This being a really difficult economic time frame, it just made it really hard to absorb for a lot of the people, especially on fixed incomes.

Here’s Sen. Derek Kilmer’s press release praising the decision:

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