State Transportation Commission to discuss tolling, ferries, and financing options for SR 520 Bridge
Transportation Commission Office - PO Box 47308 - Olympia, WA 98504-7308
Date: February 14, 2008
Contact: Reema Griffith, Transportation Commission Executive Director, 360-705-7070
OLYMPIA – Tolling rates and toll project proposals will be among the key topics of discussion when the Washington State Transportation Commission meets next week in Olympia. Commissioners will take action on proposed toll rates for the State Route 167 high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, consider a final report on their tolling study, and discuss financing options that include tolling for the SR 520 Bridge replacement. In addition, the Commission will meet with Washington State Ferries staff regarding long-range planning for ferries.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m., on both Tuesday, Feb. 19, and Wednesday, Feb. 20, and will be held in the Commission Board Room of the Transportation Building, 310 Maple Park Avenue SE, Olympia. Members of the public are welcome to attend and have an opportunity to address Commission members during a public comment period at 3:15 on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Commission will hold a hearing on the proposed toll range for the SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot Project. The Commission encourages the public to attend and comment on the proposal. HOT lanes allow solo drivers to pay an electronic toll to use carpool lanes previously reserved for vehicles with two or more occupants. Toll rates will fluctuate based on congestion factors, including time of day, traffic volumes, and traffic flow. Commissioners proposed a minimum toll rate of 50 cents for solo drivers who choose to use the HOT lanes during periods of little or no congestion, and a maximum toll rate of $9. The toll range may be adjusted as the four-year pilot project progresses. Commissioners will consider comments received during a January public meeting held in Renton and testimony from the hearing, prior to finalizing a toll range. The Commission’s adoption of a toll range will allow the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to meet Washington administrative code (WAC) requirements and move forward with the implementation of tolls on this project.
Staff of WSDOT’s Washington State Ferries (WSF) division will present to the Commission an overview of long-range planning and ferry finance work, timelines, policy issues and next steps. WSF’s Long-Range Strategic Plan will guide ferry services and investments through 2030.
In 2006, the Transportation Commission completed the “Comprehensive Tolling Study,” which addressed statewide issues relating to if, where, and when to toll. The 2007 Legislature directed the Commission to further evaluate the policies developed in the 2006 study and apply them in creating a short list of potential tolling projects. During Wednesday’s meeting, the Commission’s consultant will present a final report that intends to identify the early actions that might be taken to carry out the overall direction of the 2006 study. Those policies suggest that tolling be used to encourage the effective use of the transportation system and to provide a supplementary source of transportation funding.
Also on Wednesday, WSDOT managers will present options being considered to lower costs for replacing the SR 520 Bridge in Seattle, along with possible financing options. Some of those options include design changes such as constructing fewer pontoons, building the bridge to accommodate future expansion, and early construction of pontoons to lower costs. Five tolling scenarios are being examined as a way of narrowing the financing gap. Those scenarios include pre-construction tolling, after completion tolling, and tolling on other segments of highway in addition to cross-lake travel. The SR 520 Bridge carries 150,000 people across Lake Washington daily and design alternatives for its replacement range from an estimated $3.9 to $4.3 billion.