Join the conversation on February 8th
Ready or not, there will be a toll increase on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. How much is the question. Thanks to our State legislative leadership and to the good citizens of the greater Gig Harbor area who voiced their opinion two years ago, we dodged the bullet in 2010. But a planned toll increase has been in the cards since the bridge opened (and long before) despite the difficulties we are all facing with the current economy.
It’s time to mark your calendars for a very important upcoming meeting on February 8th when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee will hear public comment regarding a proposal to likely raise the toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to as high as $5, regardless if you have a Good to Go pass or not.
This meeting and open house on the 8th is not a time to harass or belittle state employees, our elected officials or the Citizens Advisory Committee. Rather it is a time for us to come together once again as a community to learn, dialogue and be problem solvers with our leaders.
Remember two years ago, almost to the day, when Gig Harbor rose up as a community and just said NO? It was that meeting, in 2010 at the Gig Harbor Civic Center and the amazing turn out of citizens, business owners, property owners, leaders, families and neighbors that helped change the course of potentially rising tolls – at least until now.
The Transportation Commission lists the need to pay the deferred State sales tax on the bridge, lower-than-forecasted traffic volumes, and escalating debt service payments as reasons to increase the toll. All valid reasons.
As Gig Harborites, we are arguing the more they raise the toll, the lower the traffic volumes will be and the greater the impact to our local economy. Free flow of traffic between Gig Harbor and Tacoma is good for everyone on both sides of the bridges. The more we spend on tolls the less discretionary money we have to spend at local businesses. Also good arguments.
I don’t mind paying tolls. I don’t mind the current toll prices. I love the easy access and continual flow of traffic that the new bridge has created. I don’t miss the old days – and I was one of those who voted no when asked if the bridge should be built at all. Tolls are and will continue to be a way of life throughout our state. So what is the answer? What can we do to keep the tolls palpable while the economy recovers?
Senator Kilmer, and Representative Seaquist and Angel have been our champions on the bridge issue. They have worked with the Citizens Advisory Committee to adjust the bridge-operating budget and to keep the bridge tolls down. We salute them for that and for continuing to work on it. Senator Derek Kilmer continues to advocate removing the unnecessary burden required by the state treasurer to maintain a reserve fund balance of 12.5 % of the annual debt service. In addition Senator Kilmer and Rep. Seaquist have each introduced bills to exempt the bridge from the scheduled sales tax repayment which is to begin in 2012. These bills, if passed, will save approximately $58 million from the cost to toll payers over the next ten years.
The Citizens Advisory Committee’s February 8th meeting will offer a time for you to learn more about this issue; the history, present status and the future plans. Grassroots Gig Harbor in action should be there to be informed, dialogue and share your own ideas and thoughts on this issue that is so very important to who we are as a community. Let’s work together in a positive and thoughtful way to continue to be Gig Harbor- Good to Go.
Wednesday February 8th at 6:30 PM meeting of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizens Advisory Committee Public Hearing. An open house before the meeting will begin at 5:30 with the Department of Transportation. Both events will be held at the Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview Street, Gig Harbor.