Opinion

Keeping bridge money in check a good idea

Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) is sponsoring four bills directly related to the operation/finances of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

There has been much discussion surrounding bridge tolls since the structure officially opened to traffic in July 2007. Drivers did a double-take last summer when tolls were raised to $4 — a rate hike that didn’t match the original plan. Regardless, many local toll payers have kept a watchful eye on bridge operations. With Kilmer’s proposed legislation, our state government may be in line to enforce stricter regulations. As well it should. Toll money flows through there like a river. Calling for some oversight not only ensures toll payers’ money is going where it should, but it also brings accountability to those in charge.

Senate Bill 5795 would restrict the use of toll revenues to expenditures directly related to the project, prohibiting the use of toll dollars for items such as staff travel, cell phone usage and meals.

“The bridge can’t use a cell phone or eat a meal,” Kilmer stated in a news release.

It sure can’t and it’s a sound idea to provide regulation so this doesn’t happen.

Kilmer’s other three bills are SB 5796 to require prior legislative approval for any additional capital improvements related to the Narrows Bridge project; SB 5287 will turn the deferral of the state Sales & Use Tax on the construction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge into an all-out exemption; and SB 5556 will make sure any toll-runner ticket reduced by a judge is taken off the money going to the courts rather than off the toll penalty (of the $52 fine, $40 goes to the courts and $12 goes to the Narrows Bridge Account).

With these proposed bills, regulation will be set in place to ensure money is going where it should as well as not going where it shouldn’t. The bridge is approaching its two-year anniversary. Hopefully, toll payers will be able to celebrate with four bills that will maintain a watchful eye on their dollars.

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