In our opinion: Bridge for sale

Selling the naming rights to the eastbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge is the right side of simple genius.

Public property, in the form of stadiums, is often named as the result of a big financial deal. While there is not much presidence with Washington state highways selling rights, there is no real reason to expect less than millions in revenue from the bridge, especially if the deal is brokered by an industry leader with experience bargaining for municipalities with high-value properties.

We like the idea of Ford as the main sponsor of the bridge formally known as the Narrows. A classic heavyweight with long ties to the American roadscape. Ford even has its own cash reserve to draw upon for royalty payments.

If not Ford, then General Motors. With it as anchor, auto-themed sponsors stay interested while simultaneously promoting a subtext of forced public-private partnership by nailing down a good deal on the $750 million behemoth that costs drivers a toll fee equal to a gallon of a gas – if you are not “Good To Go!” eastbound. Once the debt is repaid, the naming practice could stand in place and the revenue could join the $2-per-employee employment tax expected to fund the 2011 high capacity transportation law favored by most of the state legislators representing Kitsap County.

Toyota could make a larger statement about the future of individual transportation and sponsor the bridge through the Prius line. Or, the obvious, Toyota Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Last year, Toyota did spend $2 million to put its blazing red emblem above the left field wall above Chicago’s famed ivy.

In the long run, the naming sale would be like a giant rebate for toll-payers. Every gallon of gas burned crossing the mile-long spans delivers 37 cents to the state for highways.

Depending on which side of the bridge you live, left or right, a big oil company, such as British Petroleum stepping into the sponsorship game with some of its record profits in partnership with NASCAR could be a favorable way to stave off the projected toll rate climb into the $5 to $7 range – $4 for pass holders – if the Legislature doesn’t delay the repayment scheme for a few more years.

The two bigger bridges in the nation, Golden Gate ($6 to cross) and George Washington Bridge ($7 to $12 to cross), retain their given names in the new growing public private infrastructure economy. But for how long?

Perhaps the most naming right royalties could come from Hollywood. Hoist a big Northwest remake of the Hollywood sign across the superstructure. A Galloping Gertie theme park danger ride could be built across Paradise Bay at Disney’s California Advenutre Park  that tumbles into a “created” torrent below, could fund the sponsorship.

As potential sponsors line up for the top deck sales, the over under should not be forgotten. That waterway passing below the magnificent dual mile-long suspensions of the multigenerational twin roadways holds extra transportation-based sponsorships. The under bridge signage can earn more per square inch from the boating community simply by marinizing it and charging double.

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