CHOKEPOINTS

Gov. Inslee gives Inslee-style answer to tolling question

Jul 18, 2018, 10:56 AM | Updated: 11:16 am

tolls, I-405, tolled roads, I-405 toll lanes...

Tolls on 405. (Associated Press/Elaine Thompson)

(Associated Press/Elaine Thompson)

With more tolls coming, it’s only natural to wonder if we are now seeing the new norm when it comes to funding transportation projects to repair and expand our roadways.

Chokepoints: State favors charging as much as $2.25 to use new tunnel

Governor Jay Inslee told Seattle’s Morning News that depends largely on the Legislature.

“I can tell you the Legislature directed the executive branch to explore any options that would be available,” Inslee said.

In response, the Washington State Department of Transportation has “done some work in that regard.”

“But I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to that question,” Inslee added.

What we do know is that the state will have to figure out how to pay for large investments in our roadways. Take, for example, the new trestle the state wants to build on westbound Highway 2 heading into Everett. The need for additional capacity is already there, but the money isn’t. Options to pay for it have included raising the gas tax by 3 cents statewide and tolling drivers who use it.

Of course, the Washington State Transportation Commission studying the idea of tolling a section of I-5 between Everett and Marysville further fuels the speculative fire when it comes to expanding the number of tolled roads.

Gov. Inslee says no proposals on tolling are being made right now, but “people are going to need to talk to their Legislature to figure out a way to move forward.” He says he is pleased with the progress being made using the funds from an increase in the gas tax. While the state builds out its infrastructure, Inslee says, Washington D.C. “can’t build a birdhouse.”

Washington state’s tolled roads

With the growing population, it’s likely the state will need to continue to play catch-up for years to come. According to recent estimates, 7.4 million people live in Washington state. The state’s population grew by 117,300 people in a year. Migration is the primary driver of the population growth and the primary reason drivers are spending more time in their vehicles every day.

Meanwhile, the state continues to study a pay-per-mile program that, if implemented, could potentially generate more revenue for the state than the gas tax due to increasingly efficient vehicles. Gov. Inslee says if — and that’s a big if — the state will want to know the public’s perceptions and concerns before rolling it out.

“We’re a long way from making decisions on that,” he said.

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