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Tacoma Narrows Bridge could be paid off early by the legislature

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FILE – In this April 26, 2017 photo, the Washington State Capitol, also known as the Legislative Building, is seen in Olympia, Wash. A push by media groups to gain access to records created by Washington lawmakers is before the state’s highest court. The Washington Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in a case that will determine whether state lawmakers are subject to the same disclosure rules that apply to other elected officials under the voter-approved Public Records Act. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) Elaine Thompson/AP

Tacoma Narrows Bridge could be paid off early by the legislature

December 08, 01:00 PM December 08, 01:00 PM

New legislation proposed in Washington state would pay off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and bring an end to the tolls paid by drivers to use it.

State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, has pre-filed Senate Bill 5488 ahead of the 2022 legislative session that begins Jan. 10 and will run for 60 days.

If approved, the legislation would transfer $772 million from the state’s general fund to pay off debts on the bridge. The bulk of that money — $672 million — would go toward principal and interest, with $57 million going to the state Department of Transportation to allow it to pay off deferred sales tax on its construction.

The bridge, which opened in 2007, is currently scheduled to be paid off in 2030. Tolls, which are only paid by eastbound traffic, have brought in some $708 million of the $1.48 billion total cost.

The current fee structure is $5.25 for drivers with a “Good to Go” account and in-vehicle transponder, $6.25 for those using a credit or debit card and $7.25 for those choosing to pay by mail.

Tolls were increased by 25 cents two months ago due to a decrease in traffic during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This proposal is bold but the demand is simple: our community here on the peninsula should get the infrastructure investments we need and deserve,” Randall said to KOMO News. “We have long raised our voices together about the problems with the way the bridge was financed, and the inequity of leaving toll payers responsible for nearly all the cost. The solution isn’t cheap, but it’s necessary and I’m ready to work with my colleagues and on behalf of our community to make it possible.”

The bridge is actually a twin span of 5,400 feet that spans Puget Sound and connects the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula.

The original bridge opened in July of 1940 and was nicknamed “Galloping Gertie” by construction workers for the way it twisted and turned in high winds.

Its collapse just four months later was famously captured on film in a scene many probably remember watching in science class at some point.

The replacement bridge opened in 1950, but by the 1990s vehicle traffic on it due to population growth in the area exceeded its design capacity. Voters approved a measure in 1998 to build a parallel structure that carries traffic eastbound, while the original span carries traffic westbound.

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