CHOKEPOINTS

State Legislature considers toll reduction for Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Mar 1, 2022, 5:28 AM
narrows bridge...
Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

Tolls will not be going away entirely on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but plans to cut those tolls are still alive in the Legislature.

A lot of people on the Kitsap Peninsula got really excited in December when Democratic state Senator Emily Randall pre-filed a bill that would have eliminated the tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Her bill would have transferred $772 million from the general fund to pay off all the debt and deferred sales tax for construction. That would have eliminated the tolls this year.

It did not pass, but a form of the bill is still alive. Substitute Senate Bill 5488 has passed the Senate floor and is now in the House for debate. It would transfer $130 million from the general fund over the next 10 years, and reduce the current toll rate by $0.75 and keep it at $4.50 for Good to Go pass holders.

Senator Randall told the House Transportation Committee on Monday that’s real money.

“It puts money back in the pockets of working people,” Sen. Randall said. “That’s about $195 for a single person that drives back and forth every weekday for a year.”

Sen. Randall said now is a good time to work on this, with the state revenue forecasts showing more money is available.

“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 significantly reduce the tolls,” she said.

There is a similar proposal in the House, which received its first hearing Monday. It would take $85 million from the general fund and apply it to the debt. That would reduce the current toll by $0.25. This was originally proposed as a loan in the 2018 legislative session, but it would become a grant under this plan, with no expectation it would be repaid.

House Representative Jesse Young is the sponsor of this plan.

“This simply acknowledges the fact that we have a little extra money and would convert these future paybacks,” he said.

There is still time in the session to hammer this out, but the House has to hustle, since there are only nine days left in the short session.

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State Legislature considers toll reduction for Tacoma Narrows Bridge