OLYMPIA – The Washington State Transportation Commission has begun its work in setting new toll rates for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (TNB) that will take effect on July 1. As part of this process, the TNB Citizen Advisory Committee will formally present its toll rate recommendations to the commission on Tuesday, March 20, in Olympia. Citizens will have opportunity to address the commission about the toll proposal during public meetings scheduled in April.
The Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC), which is made up of residents representing communities surrounding the bridge, has been meeting since January to review TNB costs, revenues and traffic estimates. The CAC will make their toll rate recommendations to the commission at 1 p.m., March 20, during the commission’s regular meeting. The meeting will be held at the Transportation Building, Commission Board Room, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE, Olympia, and is open to the public.
The commission will consider the CAC’s recommendation as they make their toll rate proposal during the March 20 meeting. Following this, the commission will be asking for public input on the proposal, which can be done via mail, email or in person. To comment in person, the commission will host two public input meetings (Note: no action will be taken at these meetings):
· Wednesday, April 18, 6 to 8 p.m., at City Hall, 216 Prospect Street, Port Orchard
· Thursday, April 19, 6 to 8 p.m., at the Civic Center, 3510 Grandview Street, Gig Harbor
The commission will hold their final rate hearing from 6 to 8 p.m., on Monday, May 21, at the Civic Center in Gig Harbor. During the hearing, commissioners will take additional comment and will then act to adopt a new toll rate schedule for the TNB.
The State Transportation Commission is legally required to set toll rates in an amount that is sufficient to cover debt payments and maintenance, preservation and operational costs for the bridge.
The TNB has an escalating debt repayment plan that was designed to keep toll rates lower in the first few years of the bridge’s opening. The debt payments rise over time and require that toll revenues grow with the payments. During the 2007-09 biennium, the state paid $41 million in debt payments, and in the current 2011-2013 biennium those payments are nearly $90 million.
Since the first rates were set in 2007, each toll-setting process has begun with the advice of the Governor’s appointed Citizen Advisory Committee and has included public input. The commission evaluates several factors during the toll-setting process, including bridge expenses, trends in traffic volumes, the schedule for bond payments, ending balances in the toll revenue account, the rate recommendations from the Citizen Advisory Committee and public input.
For more information about the commission, visit the Transportation Commission’s website at: http://www.wstc.wa.gov/