Washington bill would reduce certain Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls

March 8, 2022

Keith Goble

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Pursuit in the Washington Legislature to reduce toll rates on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge continues to move forward at the statehouse.

An amended Senate-approved bill now in the House would provide relief for many users, but truck drivers would be cut out from any relief.

Toll history

The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened in 1950. Tolls were collected until 1965 to recover the $14 million in bonds to build the bridge.

The newer, eastbound bridge opened in 2007. The bridge had a price tag of about $1.4 billion. The span was paid for through bond sales. About $700 million has been repaid through tolls.

Toll rates for most passenger vehicles are $6.25. Motorists with a Good to Go pass pay $5.25. Five-axle trucks pay $15.65. Truckers with a Good to Go pass pay $13.15.

Time is right

Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, introduced a bill early this year to stop collecting tolls from bridge users on the west side of the Puget Sound about 10 years earlier than was planned.

The original version of SB5488 called for transferring $772 million from the state’s general fund to various highway accounts to pay the remaining debts on the bridge. Once paid in full, the tolls must be removed.

About $672 million from the outstanding principal and interest payments on bonds would be used to cover debt retirement. Another $57 million would come from deferred sales tax from bridge construction and another $43 million would be from transfers made between fiscal years 2020 and 2023.

Randall said the state is poised to be able to pay off the bridge and cease toll collection. They tout new money via the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a surplus in state tax revenue, and a swift rebound from the pandemic.

“This proposal is bold, but our demand is simple. Our neighbors on the peninsula deserve infrastructure investments, including toll relief, that have been forthcoming for far too long,” Randall testified in February.

Revision trims toll cutback, leaves out truckers

The Senate voted 28-21 to advance an amended version to transfer $130 million from the state’s general fund over the next decade. Additionally, the current toll rate would be trimmed by 75 cents for smaller vehicles.

Tolls for most passenger vehicles crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge would be reduced to $5.50. Motorists with a Good to Go pass would pay $4.50.

The price reductions would begin on Oct. 1.

Tolls for vehicles with three or more axles would remain unchanged.

SB5488 is in the House Transportation Committee. Time is running out for the bill to complete is trek through the statehouse. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, March 10. LL

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.