Tolls could go up on Tacoma Narrows and 520 Bridges

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Drivers should brace for higher costs to travel on the 520 Bridge and on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge after a state Transportation commission voted to raise tolls Tuesday afternoon.

The commission had a number of options to consider, from no change to substantial increases.

Senator Nathan Schlicher says businesses in his district near Gig Harbor are hit hard by tolls on the Narrows and the cost of taking a ferry across the water.

"We're seeing significant impact on our economy," he said. "Businesses don't want to locate here because we have automatic tariffs in place for their goods to get to market."

But in order to pay for the building of the bridge, the tolls must go up.

"We're not crazy about setting rates," said transportation commission chair Dan O'Neal. "We don't dream about how we can increase tolls. The reason we do it is the state has an obligation to pay its bills."

The commission decided that increase needs to be $0.25 beginning July 1 and another 25 cents next year. And for the 520 bridge, the commission voted an increase of 2.5 percent across all toll rates. That means the peak toll across 520 would go up to $3.70.

But it's not a done deal just yet. The recommendation's been made, but unless lawmakers give the commission the authority to move forward, the rates won't go up.

There are public hearings scheduled over the next two months.