Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, has introduced a measure that would maintain the current price of tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge until financing for the structure is completely re-paid. The bill would allow tolls to be maintained, but not increased, until such time as all loans and debt are paid on the bridge.
“I’ve been looking for ways to keep toll rates from rising and satisfy the state’s responsibility to repay the debt on the Narrows Bridge. The tolls were deferred early in the project, which later resulted in higher increases. And now, this week, the state Transportation Commission received a recommendation from the bridge’s citizen advisory committee that it should raise tolls again by 25 cents in July. Under the current financing structure, tolls would likely go up every single year, and we don’t know where the high end of this is going to be,” said Angel, who is a member of the House Transportation Committee. “Our local commuters cannot afford future annual toll increases. My goal with this legislation would be to maintain the tolls we have and avoid yearly increases.”
Tolls are currently $4 for electronic collection, $5 at the toll booths, and $6 for pay-by-mail.
The bill would create a Tacoma Narrows toll bridge account in the motor vehicle fund of the state treasury to receive deposits of toll charges, investment interest, proceeds from the sale of surplus real property acquired for building the second bridge, and any other revenues associated with the bridge.
Money from the account could only be used to repay the financing of the bridge, as well as costs involved with the direct financing, operation, maintenance, management and necessary repairs of the structure.
The measure would cap the yearly amount of debt service repayment from the toll bridge account to $60 million. Any additional debt service costs would be covered by a loan from the state’s motor vehicle excise account. Angel said the state would continue tolling on the bridge until the loan is paid in full, but toll charges would not increase.
“This is like extending a home mortgage. If you have a fifteen-year mortgage and you don’t want that payment to go up because of different escrow costs, you could extend that mortgage out to twenty or twenty-five years, but keep the payment the same.” noted Angel, a former Realtor and banker. “Under this plan, the tolls remain unchanged, but continue until the costs of the second bridge are paid off.”
The measure was submitted late Thursday, but had not yet been assigned a bill number. The 26th District lawmaker expects the legislation would likely be referred to the House Transportation Committee for consideration.