Bridge moves toward completion, tolls discussed


Lori Losee, KP News

The nine-member, governor-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee is in its final stages of making recommendations for the tolls and/or discounts for the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge, with a final decision to be unveiled to commuters in the spring.

Photo by Mindi LaRose

The CAC met in October and will meet again on Dec. 6 to work on recommendations that will be forwarded to the state transportation commission, which will make the final toll schedule, according to WSDOT spokesperson Janet Matkin.

“Right now, the CAC is looking at toll rates and possible discounts for commuters using the ‘Good To Go’ option,” she said.

The “Good To Go” electronic toll collection program gives commuters the option to pay tolls on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge without stopping.

A total of six toll booths will be managed by toll collectors, including three express lanes, which will utilize “electronic” toll collectors mounted over the highway lanes to read the “Good To Go” sticker on vehicle windshields and debit the user’s account each time.

“The CAC is working on fulfilling its obligations to pay for the bridge while addressing the community’s needs,” Matkin said. “They just need to find the right mixture. That is why they are looking at various scenarios and then will evaluate what makes the most sense.”

A barge delivers a bridge deck earlier this summer. Photo by Mindi LaRose

Matkin said she expects the CAC’s recommendations be made to the transportation commission after the first of the year, and then a final decision on the toll schedule to be finalized in the spring after a public hearing.

According to Claudia Cornish, WSDOT media relations manager, the WSDOT toll projections to pay back the bonds for the construction of the bridge begin at $3, with an increase of $1 each year for three to four years and peaking at $6.

“This is just a projection by the WSDOT,” Cornish said. “It is fully up to the transportation commission for a final price and incentives.”



Bridge update

Cornish said the project was 83.29 percent complete as of the end of October. By the end of November, all 46 bridge decks would have arrived to the construction site. The last 15, which were en route from South Korea, were expected to arrive shortly after Thanksgiving. The remainder of the lifting of bridge decks is expected in December.

The next step is permanent bolting and welding of the bridge decks, which are currently temporarily suspended.

Cornish added that due to several powerful storms and high winds, work on the bridge decks was suspended several times.

“I don’t know if that will cause any delays in the opening,” she said. The second Tacoma Narrows Bridge was supposed to open in April 2007, but the opening has been pushed back to early July 2007.

Cornish said the three-month delay was due to corroded cable wire. “We had to reject one-third of the wire we ordered from the South Korean company,” she said.

Cornish said the reason for such a long delay in ordering new cable wire is that it is very specialized wire that only a few companies worldwide fabricate.

Three new companies in South Korea, China and the United Kingdom fabricated the new cable wire.

After the completion of the second suspension bridge, the first bridge that was built in 1950 will undergo an 11-month renovation. The entire project will be completed by 2008.[/box]