Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Ask not for whom the tolls, toll

It’s not news.

The prospect of tolling on the replacement span for the aging Interstate Bridge has changed little in the past year. In fact, for most of the planners, board members and government officials involved in the project, tolls have long been a given – a non-issue eclipsed by larger, still yet-to-be-decided elements of the bridge’s design, including the location of Hayden Island interchanges and the exact number of lanes.

Tolls are coming.

The sooner Southwest Washingtonians accept this reality, the faster we can use the region’s considerable clout to help determine the answer to three crucial questions: when, where and how much.

First, the question of when. With the advent of electronic tolling systems, bridge levies may vary by direction of travel, vehicle type – and perhaps most importantly for thousands of Clark County commuters – time of day. According to WSDOT, proposed CRC tolls will be variable, with higher toll rates occurring during peak (read: rush) hours. Community input, advocacy by local government leaders and input by area CRC members can still ensure that the overwhelming majority of toll revenue for the new bridge won’t be on the backs of Southwest Washington commuters.

Now to the second question: where. While tolls may be a given for the planned replacement bridge on I-5, levies on the Glenn Jackson Bridge remain uncertain. However, even a 9-year-old child of a transportation planner must realize that in order to avoid creating a parking lot in east Vancouver, tolls on both crossings are necessary. According to a Tolling Story Committee Report submitted to both state legislatures in January 2010, tolling just the CRC could divert as many as 37,000 daily vehicle trips to an already overburdened I-205 crossing.

Finally, the question seemingly every Clark County shopper, commuter and occasional Riverfront Park food cart patron has a stake in: how much. According to the CRC toll report, estimates for single crossings for passenger vehicles range from $1 to $6, with at least one scenario calling for tolls crossing the span on the southbound side only. With CRC funding from other sources far from certain, Southwest Washington officials need to unite now to ensure that the burden of paying for a project of regional, national and even international importance be shared equitably by all parties.

Now is not the time to hold politicians to unrealistic campaign promises. Instead, what we need is leadership to ensure residents get the bridge they deserve … and can afford.


Anonymous said...

Yes, let's continue to make taxpayers pay more and more money that we do not have. I say now is the time to hold politicians to their promises. By not doing so, we are creating an environment where those who make empty promises can flourish and get away with whatever they want. This is unacceptable to me as a voter and as an American. It is time everyone learns that throwing money at a problem is NOT a solution. Let's come up with creative solutions that solve problems - and learn to live with what we have and within our means. It is high time everyone does this.