Tolls proposed for Seattle viaduct

| 9/29/2006

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire said this week she wants to leave her options open for covering the increasing cost of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

In 2005, the Legislature approved a 9.5-cent-a-gallon fuel tax increase as part of a transportation-improvement package that includes more than $2 billion for the viaduct. Since then, the costs of building materials have increased, which has boosted estimates for the work.

The governor said Monday, Sept. 25, she wasn’t looking for another increase in the state’s per-gallon taxes on diesel and gasoline to cover the additional $460 million needed for the state’s share of replacing the earthquake-damaged bridge.

Instead, she thinks the state might need to look at charging tolls.

“Rather than saying we’re going to use the (fuel) tax and everybody in the state is going to pay … it’s really about those who use it pay,” Gregoire told The Seattle Times.

While Gregoire said she is open to other possibilities, tolls are the only plan she’s discussed for paying to complete the work.

A spokesman for the governor said other alternatives for financing the viaduct replacement might emerge during a series of public hearings in the next two months.

City officials in Seattle are considering either replacing the elevated highway with a new elevated version or digging a tunnel to carry traffic on state Route 99.

Estimates for the cost of the elevated route are close to $3 billion while the tunnel estimate is as high as $5.5 billion, The Times reported.

Gregoire said she will announce which design option she favors before the Legislature convenes in January.