Bill to be heard Monday to keep Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls flat

A bill sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, would solve the problem of escalating tolls on the Tacoma Narrow Bridge by freezing them at a fixed rate and then borrowing funds from the multimodal transportation account to cover the amount necessary to pay any difference between toll revenue and rising debt service until the bonds are fully paid off.

SB 6547, which is scheduled for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5 before the Senate Transportation Committee, would use transportation funds to cover costs of future increases to debt payments, keeping toll rates flat instead of rising, as expected, to cover escalating debt payments and operating costs. This bill would set up a series of loans to cover the debt payments and costs from 2020-2030. With this bill, it is expected that the toll rate will remain flat for Good To Go! users at $5.50. The east end of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is located in Sen. O’Ban’s district.

“This presents a genuine opportunity to solve the ever-increasing toll rates on the bridge and keep more money in the pockets of residents who depend on this critical transportation artery,” said O’Ban. “Tolls have increased dramatically and are scheduled to continue increasing under current law. With this legislation, it will be like refinancing an adjustable rate mortgage that is going up every year and converting it into an affordable, fixed rate mortgage.”

The Tacoma Narrows bridge debt service is currently funded without drawing from any state tax dollars. As a result, construction costs, interest payments and other debt service costs are taken directly from tolls.