Transportation Commission Begins Preparations for Raising Tolls and Ferry Fares

Submitted by Washington State Transportation Commission

The Washington State Transportation Commission is holding a special meeting next week to begin its process to increase toll rates on some tolled facilities and to adjust Washington State Ferry fares, based upon the final transportation budget passed by the Legislature in the 2021 session.

The special meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, May 11. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using Zoom Webinar. People interested in attending can register on the commission’s website. The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW.

In the final 2021-2023 Transportation Budget, the Legislature provided funding to relieve the financial pressure on tolled facilities resulting from reduced traffic volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission had recently discussed the possibility of raising some tolls as soon as July 1 of this year. With the funding provided by the Legislature, the commission has additional time to go through its regular rate setting and public outreach process, moving the effective date for potential rate increases to Oct. 1, 2021.

During its meeting, the commission will receive financial updates for Washington State Ferries, as well as the State Route 99 tunnel, the SR 520 bridge, and the SR 16 Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Discussions will focus on various toll rate scenarios and approaches to generating the needed toll revenues to cover legally required costs. Those costs include debt payments, toll operations, and maintenance and preservation of the tolled facilities. The commission will also determine its schedule and process for adjusting the toll rates, including opportunities for the public to comment on the options under consideration. The commission will discuss its schedule and process for adjusting ferry fares at its May 18 meeting. The commission is expected to release its proposed ferry fare increases during its June 15 meeting and proposed toll rate increases at its July 20 meeting.

Questions or comments from the public can be submitted during the meeting by using the “Q&A” function found on-screen during the virtual meeting. As time allows, questions will be addressed during the meeting. Written public comment can also be submitted via email until 4 p.m. the day before the meeting. Comments should be sent to transc@wstc.wa.gov. Written comments received after this deadline will be provided to commissioners after the meeting.

All presentations will be available on the commission’s website. For more information about the commission and complete meeting agendas, visit the Washington State Transportation Commission website.

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