Tolling bills advance in Washington state

| 2/28/2008

The Washington House approved a bill that would set up a framework for collecting tolls in the state. Another bill on the move would prohibit sales and use taxes from being used for large toll projects.

With the endorsement of Gov. Christine Gregoire, House lawmakers voted 59-35 to move a bill to the Senate that would give the Washington Legislature authority to impose tolls on unspecified roads and bridges.

Transportation leaders at the Capitol predict tolling to be more widespread in the state’s not-too-distance future. They cite struggles to get voters to fund massive roads and transit funding efforts through higher sales and vehicle taxes.

Opponents say the state should spend the money it already collects more efficiently.

The new financing system is expected to help foot the bill for projects that include a new bridge over Lake Washington between Seattle and Bellevue. The state Route 520 floating bridge has a price tag of $4 billion, The Seattle Times reported.

The Washington State Transportation Commission would be responsible for following guidelines and requirements in determining toll rates. Toll revenues would be earmarked solely for improvements, maintenance, enforcement and operation along roadways where the money is collected.

The bill – HB1773 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Another House-approved bill – HB3051 – would prohibit large toll projects from having sales and use taxes added to project debt.

Supporters say the legislation would exempt the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and future “mega” tolling projects from the sales and use taxes normally paid during construction of state projects. The exemption is important as the state seeks to expand tolling, they say.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, the bill is in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor