Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

- Paul Leonard can be contacted at

A few thoughts on tolls – and living in the Northwest

Seems I can’t get away from tolls, no matter how hard I try.

As a former New York newspaper editor, regularly expected to drive to any point in the city on a moment’s notice, my Nissan Altima is still fitted with an essential device – a six-by-six square of molded tan plastic, called the “E-Z Pass.”

For urban East Coast drivers negotiating cramped highways and byways, the E-Z Pass came as a godsend when the 14-state system was introduced in 1993. Instead of paying the full toll at bridges, tunnels and highway on-ramps, E-Z Pass customers pay a reduced rate, while getting the added bonus of zipping through toll plazas without stopping.

For New Yorkers, paying a reduced rate on tolls is a very big deal. Here’s the rundown on some of tolls in and around my native state: Queens-Midtown Tunnel, $5; Lincoln Tunnel, $8; and the granddaddy of all, the Verrazano Bridge at $11 (soon to be upped to $13).

I know this ain’t New York, but electronic tolling is already a familiar sight on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and it may yet be a familiar sight much closer to home.

Until that day, my relic of urban driving will be glued to the windshield, ready, waiting – a constant reminder of a more cramped and crazy life that may yet follow me, 2,950 miles away in Vancouver.

Sneak preview

Coming out in VBJ’s August 7 edition: Nancy Thompson, former president of the Washington Association of Health Underwriters, speaks out about healthcare reform, while VBJ covers one of the largest construction equipment auctions in Southwest Washington memory.

Birthday wishes

Steve McDonagh, VBJ business manager extraordinaire and the original “Super-Steve,” celebrates his birthday today. Happy Birthday, Steve!