Effective July 1, 2012, there will be an increase in the tolls for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (an exact amount is still under review). Craig Stone, director of the toll division for the Washington State Department of Transportation, explained that there are bonds that need to be paid off for the bridge’s life span of 30 years. For example, like a mortgage on a house, the amount due on the bridge, increases in the steps the bonds has for the first 17 years. The 2002 financial plan outlined the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as follows: the first year had 15 million dollars of bonds (or debt service), the second year was 28 million dollars, the third year was approximately 34 million dollars, and the fourth year was approximately 44 million dollars. Craig discussed, “We’re seeing these increases; that’s the key and with the 2002 financial plan, we knew that for the first two years the average toll rate would be about $3, $4 after the first two years, and $5 after the first four years. In the year 2015, the average toll rate would be $6. This was all set in place with 2002 financial plan. The actual toll rates have been less than that. In July 2007, when the bridge first opened, there was a $3 toll and $1.75 toll for participants in the Good to Go program. In July 2008, there was a $4 toll and $2.75 toll for Good to Go participants. Both these years are still lower than the initial plan; that’s the good news…Added on is the sales tax; $57 million dollars of sales tax for construction of this project and has to be paid back beginning five years from when the project’s completed. From 2007 and by the time we get to the middle of 2012, we have to start paying the sales tax back and it’s broken up in the next 10 years. So, those are the two factors of what’s driving the consideration with adjusting toll rates.”
Not only are the toll rates for the Narrows Bridge and Good to Go under review, the “Pay by Mail” program also needs to be determined. (The Pay by Mail program started in December and allows passengers to cross the bridge without a Good to Go pass or stop at the toll booth). Pay by Mail mails participants in the program receive a bill after seven days of crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and HWY 520 (Evergreen Point Floating Bridge which connects Seattle and Bellevue). Participants can pay the bill by writing or check or paying by credit card.
When asked what he thought of the toll situation, Craig replied, “We need to make sure we’re meeting our financial obligations with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and that we’re keeping our operation and maintenance costs low. But, because of bonds and sales, there is a need for toll increases. There’s an advisory committee reviewing all this information and they will be making their recommendation on a toll rate to the Washington State Transportation Commission (they also set ferry fares and tolls on our facilities). There was an open house that went well; (over 100 individuals attended) last week in Gig Harbor and provided their input to the advisory committee.”
Concerned citizens can attend the Transportation Commission meeting which will be discussing tolls for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge on February 21, 2012 from 1 pm to 5 pm in the Transportation Building located at: 310 Maple Park Ave. SE Olympia, WA 98501. There will also be another meeting for the general public on February 22, 2012, the Citizens Advisory Committee in Gig Harbor’s Civic Center located: 3510 Grandview Street Gig Harbor, WA 98335 from 6 pm to 8 pm. For more information, please visit: http://wstc.wa.gov/.
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com