Washington state committee discusses end to Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls

January 27, 2022

Keith Goble

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Work underway at the Washington statehouse has started the ball rolling on pursuit to remove tolls from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge about 10 years before planned.

The Senate Transportation Committee recently held a hearing on a bill to transfer $772 million from the state’s general fund to various highway accounts to pay remaining debts on the bridge. Once paid in full, the tolls must be removed.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll history

The original 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.

Bold proposal

Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, told committee members it is time to stop collecting tolls from bridge users on the west side of the Puget Sound.

“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.

“The reason we are in the position that we are in is because of decision makers of yesterday. We have the opportunity to remediate some of these poor decisions.”

Randall and others say 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.

“At a time when we have such a strong budget outlook and unspent federal money for COVID recovery, the legislature should seize the opportunity to eliminate tolls and pay off the remaining debt,” Randall said.

Randall’s bill, SB5488, would tap $672 million from outstanding principal and interest payments on bonds 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.

If approved, toll booths would be closed in July.

The Senate Transportation Committee held SB5488 for further discussion. The House version, HB1602, is in the House Appropriations Committee. 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.