Too Soon to Freak Out About Narrows Tolls

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge citizens committee recommended in December that tolls stay at $2.75 for Good To Go customers and $4 for cash payers until at least June 30, 2010. Now it’ll be up to the state Transportation Commission to agree or disagree. Word has it that some on the commission are worried that the citizens group isn’t leaving a big enough cushion between bridge revenue and bridge expenditures, and maybe tolls should be raised a quarter or 50 cents beginning on July 1, said Reema Griffith, the commission’s executive director.

If real traffic and revenue counts come in close to the projections that the citizens committee used in its calculations, I’d be disappointed if the commission didn’t follow the recommendation. Because of the goofy way the system is set up, though, things could change in the four months between when the committee makes a recommendation and the commission has to decide. Because of Initiative 960, which requires virtually every fee increase to have a legislative vote, the committee must make a recommendation that would take effect on July 1 in the previous December instead of getting four more months of hard data like the commission will have.

The tolls are kind of a pay me now or pay me later proposition, anyway. All of them go to pay off or operate the bridge, and unless you move away, you’re going to have to pay eventually. If the tolls are kept at the current rate until July 1, 2010, as the committee proposes, there’ll be a much bigger jump — 40 to 50 percent, Griffith said — than if a quarter or 50 cents were added this coming July 1.

Before the toll can be raised, there has to be public meetings, probably in April or May.

Traffic was down about 94,000 from November to December, a good bunch of that attributable to the holidays and snow, no doubt.