Committee favors public’s least favorite option for reducing Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls

Jul 19, 2022, 5:16 PM | Updated: Jul 20, 2022, 11:07 am

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (KIRO 7)...

Tacoma Narrows Bridge (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

The Washington State Transportation Commission fielded public opinion over several proposed toll rate reduction plans for drivers using the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but has decided on choosing the least favorable option, according to a survey from the public.

The commission said it plans to reduce toll rates for the bridge by Oct. 1 due to additional funding provided by the state legislature.

The three toll rate reduction options are:

  • Option 1: Flat 75-cent toll rate reduction for only two-axle vehicles
  • Option 2: Flat 75-cent toll rate reduction for all vehicles
  • Option 3: Flat 75-cent toll rate reduction for two-axle vehicles, with a per axle multiplier applied for vehicles with three-plus axles (per current practice)

State Legislature considers toll reduction for Tacoma Narrows Bridge

More than 13,000 people responded to WDOT’s survey on the options above, with Option 1 raking in the most votes (36.5%).

More than 50% of respondents claimed Option 3 as their least preferred.

“We looked at all of the information and we came up with a consensus that we would probably go with Option 3,” said Jerry Litt, WSTC commissioner. “You don’t know whether the respondents are talking from their pocketbook or if they’re looking at the bigger picture. And I think the bigger picture, when you consider the delivery of goods and services to the island and costs on other things related to the coal, the way to serve the biggest majority of the total population is their impact. May not be great at the pocketbook because they don’t use it that often.”

Litt claimed Option 3 is the best one to deal with underserved communities and those that don’t use the bridge often.

The committee will move forward with Option 3 and hear from the public once more next month before finalizing any decisions.

Approximately 16% of respondents use the bridge daily, 24% on a weekly basis, 19% once a month, and then 31% use it a few times a year.

The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5488 this year, paving the way for cheaper rates for drivers using the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Legislators decided to fund the 2007 construction of the bridge without drawing from the pool of state tax money, according to the bill.

“In light of the maximum burden for bridge construction that was placed on Tacoma Narrows bridge toll ratepayers, there is no equitable reason that the burden of future debt service payment increases should be borne by these same toll ratepayers,” legislators wrote in the bill.

The original bill, backed by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), sought to entirely pay off the $772 million still owed on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and to completely eliminate tolls, before it was pared back to the 75-cent savings. The $772 million also would have included the $57.6 million in deferred sales taxes and $43 million in state loans used to stabilize tolls.

The final Public Hearing on toll rate reduction proposal will occur August 23 at 10 a.m. There is a Zoom Webinar Registration to attend the hearing and if someone would like to testify and provide comments at the hearing, email transc@wstc.wa.gov.

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Committee favors public’s least favorite option for reducing Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls