Tolls considered for stretch of Washington's I-90

| 8/10/2006

To help pay for pricey upgrades to Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, Washington state transportation officials and legislators are looking into charging truckers and other drivers to use the route.

While trying to convince opponents that the study on possible tolls doesn't mean they will become reality, members of the state Department of Transportation and consultants said nearly all drivers traveling over the mountains on I-90 would be willing to pay a $1 to $6 fee, with trucks paying the most, the Ellensburg Daily reported.

The Washington Transportation Commission assured those at a meeting early this month in Ellensburg, WA, that tolls wouldn't be added to highways in the state without first getting legislative approval. Richard Ford, a member of the commission, said the state is looking for money to pay for needed road work without resorting to dreaded fuel tax increases.

Don Whitehouse, regional state transportation administrator in Yakima, said some people may be confused that tolls are definitely in the works for Snoqualmie Pass. He tried to assure those people that the agency is simply looking at several options on how to fund major projects around the state.

“Tolls are one option we're looking at,” Whitehouse told the Daily . “Tolls also can be used in combination with other means to gain the revenue needed for projects.”

New fuel taxes will fund nearly $388 million in work on the five-mile project, which stretches from Hyak to Keechelus Lake along I-90. The project will expand lanes in both directions and build a bridge, taking lanes away from slopes and avalanche areas, the Daily reported.

Funding sources are unclear for the remaining 10 miles of the roadway to Easton, and other sections. Whitehouse said tolls are one possibility.

If legislators agree to tolling Snoqualmie Pass or other roadways in the state, the federal government would still need to give the state authorization to turn any existing interstate into a pay-to-play route.

Other projects that could be eyed for tolls include the state Highway 520 floating bridge and bridges on the Columbia River, The Seattle Times reported.

Tolls also are planned for the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge and state Highway 167 car-pool lanes between Auburn and Renton.