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Lawmaker proposes cap on Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Feb. 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm with 5 Comments »
February 22, 2013 3:55 pm

A peninsula lawmaker is proposing a way to pay off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge without any further increases in toll rates.

To do that, the legislation drafted by Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, would rely on loans from the state’s motor vehicle fund until the bridge is paid off in 2030. It would then keep tolls on the bridge until those loans are repaid.

Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard
Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard

Angel, a former Realtor and banker, likens the legislation that was introduced Thursday to extending a home mortgage.

She earlier proposed selling the naming rights to bridges and highways as a way to raise money for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Angel told The Kitsap Sun that legislation is dead.

“I’m going to try to go another route,” she told the newspaper.

Her bill would cap at $60 million the amount of toll revenue that would go toward debt payments on the bridge. The rest would come as a loan from the state’s motor vehicle excise account, its chief highway fund.

The bridge is scheduled to be paid off in 2030, and Angel proposes to keep tolls on the bridge after that to repay those loans. The state typically has removed tolls from bridges, including the single Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the State Route 520 floating bridge and the Hood Canal Bridge, after they are paid off, but the decision ultimately rests with state lawmakers, said Patricia Michaud, spokeswoman for the state tolling division.

State official financed the project by backloading the debt in an effort to keep tolls as low as possible when the new span opened in July 2007. Officials assumed increases in tolls — the financing plan anticipated $1 toll increases every three years to a maximum of $6 in 2016 — and usage from population growth would generate enough money to make the escalating debt payments.

But the annual traffic count has remained flat and revenue has only increased following a toll hike. The count has hovered around 14 million a year and is projected to end the current budget period at the lowest level since the eastbound span opened nearly six years ago.

The bridge is projected to take in $60.6 million in toll revenue during the current budget year thanks to a toll hike that took effect in July, the first increase in four years. Officials are likely to approve a toll increase next month of 25 cents for each of the next two summers.

It remains to be seen how lawmakers react to dipping into the state’s highway fund to help make debt payments on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge when the fund can’t pay for needed transportation projects. House Democrats unveiled a $10 billion transportation package earlier this week to help close that gap.

There’s been growing concern that toll revenue alone won’t be sufficient to raise enough revenue as the debt payments on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge continue to increase without having to raise them above $6 or find more money somewhere else.

The bill has not been assigned a number as of yet.

State transportation officials did not have immediate comment on the bill.

You’re invited to follow Christian Hill on Twitter @TNTchill

Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. I don’t expect to see the tolls ever stop being collected from crossing the narrows Bridge.I feel the lawmaker have discovered the goose that lays golden eggs so the crossers will just have to suffer the consequences.I can’t imagine any of our representive doing anything to stop the flow on money coming from those that have to cross the bridge.The only exception that seem willing to help the taxpayers Is Jan Angel.For that reason I feel she should remain in office.

  2. Sagebrush6 says:

    Any time I’m heading south towards Olympia ( because I live on the peninsula) I take the back way to hwy 8 and then over to I-5. Scenic drive and it only takes a little longer and “no tolls”.

  3. dbreneman says:

    They never should have taken the toll off the bridge in the 1960s. That opened the flood gates to the California diaspora and led to the rise of Imperial Gig Harbor. The Peninsula has been going downhill ever since.

  4. I believe it was Tacomas reputation that caused many people to leave Tacoma and move to Gig Harbor and the Peninsula.For myself I felt that rural life was preferred before city dwelling and it has been a good choice in my estimation.I no longer inhabit Tacoma unless it is a have to case.The city leaders seems to keep trying to be the leader in collecting taxes from its inhabitants and that is not missed.I believe the Elected Officials should openly declare about taxes,Too much is never enough!

  5. northwestrealtor says:

    The subject of bridge tolls should have been taken care of long ago. The bridge has been built for two years now with the tolls spiraling out of control. Who in the hell is doing the accounting on this project anyway? This is 3rd grade math here folks. There’s a reason that the annual traffic count remains flat you morons. People are avoiding crossing the Narrows Bridge at all costs because they don’t like getting ripped off! My message to everyone out there: Let them choke on their bridge tolls. Slap those idiotic lawmakers silly and don’t cross the Narrows Bridge. Send them a message.

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