Tag Archives: bridge tolls

Ducking bridge tolls can be costly

The out basket: Three readers have told me of seeing a maneuver in the Good to Go! transponder lanes at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that appears to be an attempt to foil the toll collection.

Jeff Griswell wrote, “Just as I was about to go through the lighted area, the car in front of me tapped their brakes and swerved into the right side of the road against the barrier, not hitting the barrier or anything, and kept driving. My assumption is they were avoiding (not sure if it’s possible) the camera so they did not have to pay the toll at all. If that is able to happen, I think there needs to be a fix.”

Richard Helriegel described what he saw on Dec. 7 in later afternoon.

“As I watched, a green Honda sedan moved from the righthand lane, crossed the fog line and passed under the camera/light bars on the shoulder (which has no cameras, etc.)  I am curious how prevalent that is, and if the cameras have a wide enough field of view to catch the offending vehicle.

The third reader, whose name I’ve lost, said, “I noticed a four-door Ford sedan with two occupants turn on their emergency flashing lights and slow down, pulling into the far right hand lane, next to the Jersey barrier that separates it from the toll booth lanes.

“The vehicle then transited under the toll sensing overhead cameras and then turned off their emergency flashers and pulled back into the regular far right lane and picked up speed. As I looked at the overhead camera mountings I noticed that there is not one hanging directly over that lane. Is there any chance that these folks might be scofflaws and avoiding tolls?”

The out basket: The toll collection agency would rather not have this publicized, as it’s uncertain how effective the maneuver might be and they don’t want to encourage it. .

“Some of the cars that try this dodge are captured by the cameras and some are not,” said Janet Matkin, until recently the spokeswoman for the Good to Go! office. “If a WSP officer sees it happen, they will pursue them. It is illegal to avoid the tolls. But the officers are not sitting at the toll plaza waiting for this kind of maneuvering.”

Annie Johnson, one of Janet’s successors in the office, said the fine for trying to avoid a toll is $124, the standard penalty for most driving infractions.

She didn’t say so, but crossing the edge line in motion is a separate infraction all by itself, driving off the roadway, and might incur its own $124 fine.

So with the Pay by Mail toll now $5.50, a driver could get away with this 20 or 30 times and still be the loser if caught just once. Of course, the fine wouldn’t go to paying off the bridge bonds as the tolls do.









Toll statement charge hits non-computer owners


The in basket: Merwin Linsley of Central Kitsap wasn’t happy when he got a notice from the Good to Go! folks who collect Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls saying he’ll be charged $1.50 a month for his statements in the future, which he can avoid by getting his by e-mail.

“I don’t have a computer and a lot of other people don’t, too.” he protested.

The out basket. About 28,000 account holders have been getting there statements in the mail since the bridge opened, at no charge until now, says Janet Matkin of Good to Go!.

“It was a means of ensuring that customers were familiar and comfortable with the way the electronic toll collection would work,” she said. “The intention was always to begin charging for statements after the first year.” The terms and conditions all of us received with our transponders said a fee could be applied.

The state has been looking hard at ways to cut costs to lessen pressure for toll increases. I’m sure that reducing the number of mailed statements, and charging $1.50 for those that remain, was an obvious cost-cutting measure. 

The statements will be mailed quarterly from now on, not monthly, so it will come to $6 a year, the equivalent of about two crossings in tolls, for people like Merwin. The first such charge, to be deducted from the individual’s pre-paid account and credited to the same account as the tolls, will begin in December.

The amount was set in April 2007,  Janet said, and is in the Washington Administrative Code.

Merwin and others like him can save the $1.50 by forgoing his statements altogether, Janet said. He can phone 1-866-936-8246 for a verbal report. And, of course, he can get a computer and go online, and get the no-charge e-mailed statements.


Who keeps the bridge toll money?

The in basket: With tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge seemingly fated to jump a dollar per crossing in about a month, Carol Johnson asks “Where’s the money from all the Good-To-Go! accounts kept? Who gets the interest generated from holding that money? And does it go into the general fund and get spent for who knows what or is it earmarked to pay down the debt for the Narrows bridge?
“Inquiring minds want to know,” she said.
The out basket: Janet Matkin of the Good to Go! staff answers that the narrows bridge tolls “are accounted for in a separate account within the state treasury that is dedicated to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. All spending is appropriated by the Legislature and allotted and monitored by the Office of Financial Management.”
Interest is accrued on toll revenue, including the prepaid Good to Go! accounts, and has been dedicated to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge account, she said. All toll revenue and interest earnings in the account will go towards paying the debt on bonds used to finance construction of the bridge and for paying ongoing operating and maintenance costs. Retirement of the bonds will allow the tolls to end, expected to happen in 2030.
The opening of tolled HOT lanes (on Highway 167 east of I-5)) earlier this month complicates the matter as far as crediting interest earnings on the prepaid accounts to the correct facility, she noted.
So the state is creating a Central Tolling Fund in which “all Good To Go! prepaid deposits will go into a central deposit fund. Then, when a customer uses one of the tolling facilities, the appropriate toll is recorded and that amount is transferred to the correct facility’s account.
“The interest from the prepaid accounts will be distributed on a percentage basis determined by the revenue levels for each fund,” she said.
Inquiring minds can learn more in RCWs 47.56.160 and 47.56.165, she added.
Randy Boss, a critic of the bridge tolls, says he has submitted a public records request for bank records to check on this answer, and says he’ll let us know what he finds when he gets them.