Toll rate increases are necessary to ensure toll revenues cover debt payments and costs related to maintenance, preservation and operations of our tolled roads and bridges. Each tolled facility has a finance plan that considers these costs as well as inflation. The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) works with WSDOT and the public to establish toll rates for all highways and bridges in Washington State. The WSTC reviews traffic and revenue each year to determine whether new toll rates are needed to cover operational costs and debt payments. This review process starts in the fall and, if new rates are adopted, they are in effect the following July.
Can the public provide input to the toll rate setting process?
Yes. The WSTC hosts public input meetings throughout the toll rate setting process as well as a final hearing prior to adopting toll rate changes. These meetings are open to the public and include a public comment period. You can also submit written comments to the commission.
2012 Toll Rate Increases by Facility
Tacoma Narrows Bridge l SR 520 Bridge
Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The WSTC is required to set toll rates at the lowest amount that is sufficient to pay the debt for the bridge, as well as to pay costs for bridge maintenance, preservation and operations. The WSTC must also take into account the recommendation from the governor-appointed TNB Citizen Advisory Committee.
What are the new toll rates?
- $4 for Good To Go!
- $5 for cash or credit payments at the toll booths
- $6 for Pay By Mail customers.
Why is a toll increase needed?
- The TNB finance plan outlines an escalating debt structure, minimizing the initial impact on bridge users. See handout on rate increase need for Tacoma Narrows Bridge. (pdf 700 KB)
- Debt payments rise over time, requiring additional toll revenue.
- Toll rate increases are part of the original TNB finance plan.
- The WSTC has only raised rates once since the bridge opened in 2007. They are now increasing rates to ensure that we are able to make these payments.
Why this amount?
- We have been able to operate with lower rates than planned for the past five years. However, traffic is lower than forecasted due to the recession. If we kept the current toll rates, we would fall behind in debt payments.
- We already deferred a rate increase in 2010 and used some of our reserve funds, and cannot deplete this reserve.
- We deferred rate increases in prior years, resulting in a larger step increase now.
Why did Good To Go! pass holders get the largest increase?
- The previous Good To Go! rate of $2.75 was substantially below the original projection of $4 tolls for all drivers by 2010.
- Drivers still get a discount by having a Good To Go! account. Pass holders still pay the lowest toll rate on the bridge.
What do tolls pay for?
- Tolls collected will be used for TNB improvements, operations and maintenance.
SR 520 Floating Bridge
The WSTC considers toll rates that help maintain travel time, speed, and reliability on the corridor. They set and adjust toll rates to generate sufficient revenue to cover costs and debt repayment, and to keep up with future general inflation.
What are the new toll rates?
- Toll rates increased 2.5 percent and continue to vary by time of day.
- The peak Good To Go! rate of $3.50 increased to $3.59.
- The peak Pay By Mail rate of $5 increased to $5.13.
Why is a toll rate increase needed?
- We sold $550 million in bonds in fall 2011 and that funding is already paying for SR 520 construction. The rate increases support the finance plan and ensure there is revenue to make debt payments to bondholders. See handout on rate increase need for SR 520 bridge (pdf 68 kb)
- The upcoming toll rate increase supports the finance plan for SR 520 which has incremental steps for the first five years, then has flat debt into the future after the new bridge is open.
- The incremental steps include four annual 2.5 percent rate increases planned through 2015 and a 15 percent increase in 2016.
Why must tolls go up 15 percent in 2016?
- During the initial rate setting process, the commission chose to include the 15 percent step increase in weekday toll rates in 2016 after project completion rather than start with a higher initial toll rate.
Are you increasing rates because tolls aren’t generating as much revenue as originally anticipated?
- No, this is the first of four annual 2.5 percent rate increases planned through 2015 to keep pace with general inflation rates.
- Traffic and revenue are exceeding expectations, traffic is 15 percent above forecasts for the first quarter of operations, and revenue is up six percent above forecasts.
- The scheduled rate increases are based on traffic forecasts as well as inflations. They are still needed to keep us on track with our finance plan to raise $1 billion for a new SR 520 bridge.
- The SR 520 toll finance statement shows that gross revenue between January and March was $12.9 million and exceeded the forecast in our SR 520 Bridge Investment Grade Traffic and Revenue Study by six percent.
What do SR 520 tolls pay for?
- Tolls collected will be used for SR 520 improvements, operations and maintenance.
Will there be more rate increases after 2016?
- After 2016 any toll increases would be determined by the commission, which annually reviews traffic and revenue to determine toll rates.