Question: Is it true that our Canadian visitors do not have to pay bridge or highway tolls?
Jim Cranwill, Gig Harbor
Answer: Thats not exactly true, but its close.
A better way to put it might be, Canadians who know the system can avoid tolls.
Canadians are supposed to pay the toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, just like everybody else. Those who stop at the tollbooths do pay.
But if vehicles with Canadian plates bypass the booths and just cruise across in the automatic Good to Go! lanes, they are good to go.
Thats because at this point, at least the state has no way of billing them.
Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to provide the pay-by-mail option to drivers with foreign license plates, said Washington Department of Transportation spokeswoman Emily Pace. We are continuing to work through the challenges of billing across international borders, which are preventing us from looking up foreign license plates.
If Canadian citizens want be honest about it and set up a Good to Go! account, it takes some special effort on their part. They need to have a credit card issued on a U.S. bank with a U.S. billing address; have a checking account that draws U.S. funds; or present a U.S. money order or cash at a customer service center.
Pace says she doesnt think its a significant revenue loss, but she admits the state does not have a good idea how many Canadians crossed the bridge for free in the Good to Go! lanes last year.
We typically dont track transactions to that level of detail, she said, just like we dont track the number of Canadians stopping at a tollbooth.
Pace estimates that vehicles with British Columbia plates amount to only about 0.1 percent of the approximately 10.5 million vehicles that drive through the electronic toll lanes each year. That would be 10,500 vehicles.
But that percentage is based on a small sample taken in October. Pace agrees its probably safe to assume more Canadians cross during summer tourism months.
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