If you have any errands that will require crossing the Tacoma Narrows bridges this week, you might want to take care of them Tuesday. That’s the last day you can drive eastbound before tolls go up by 50 cents per trip.
The new toll rate starting Wednesday will be $5 for Good to Go Pass holders, $6 for toll booth users and $7 for those who pay by mail.
This marks the third straight year the state has hiked tolls effective July 1 — but this year, it is double the 25-cent increase imposed in 2013 and 2014.
State transportation officials have targeted another 50-cent bump for July 2016.
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They say tolls must continue to go up to keep pace with rising debt payments on the bridge, and because tolls were held low the first few years after the bridge opened in the summer of 2007.
Planners say it will be necessary to keep increasing tolls until the bridge is paid off in 2030 .
For years, state legislators have floated proposals that could help hold the line on tolls.
Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, has pushed this year for a collection of short- and long-term fixes. His short-term ideas include deferring a sales tax payment on bridge debt, allowing money from a bridge reserve fund to be used for debt repayment and forgiving a bridge start-up loan owed to the state Motor Vehicle Fund.
Young said Monday that none of those bills are still in play during negotiations over a state transportation package, which legislators are trying to pass during their third overtime session. And it’s too late to halt this week’s toll increase, anyway.
He’s more hopeful that lawmakers could take action in 2016 to stop the next round of toll increases next summer.
Before that, he says the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee will take a closer look at his proposal to form a task force to study privatizing tollbooth operations.
As Young sees it, the annual increase in toll rates “is an unfair burden on the taxpayers of the 26th District.”