Politics & Government

Skip Narrows Bri dge toll, face a fine

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill Wednesday that sets a $49 penalty for failing to pay a toll on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

Meanwhile, the Washington state Transportation Commission on Wednesday set a timetable for establishing the bridge toll.

It's still unclear when the new bridge will open to traffic. Lloyd Brown, chief spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the bridge could open anytime between July 1 and

Aug. 1, so officials are planning for mid-July.

Toll amounts

The commission has scheduled a meeting of the citizen toll advisory committee April 26 to make its final recommendation on toll amounts.

The advisory committee had recommended a $3 toll for motorists who stop to pay at a toll booth and $1.75 for motorists who sign up for the Good To Go program, install a transponder in their vehicles and set up debit accounts for automatic electronic collection of tolls.

However, that recommendation was made in January before the Legislature convened.

Lawmakers are expected to adopt a 2007-09 transportation budget that provides enough money to discount the toll for transponder users to $1.50 for the first year.

The commission plans to set a preliminary toll amount at an April 30 meeting in Olympia, then have public hearings

May 22 and June 5 in Gig Harbor to take comments.

The schedule calls for adopting the final toll at the June 5 meeting.

Perhaps in July

Tolls would take effect July 5 if no one files a challenge during the 30-day appeal period.

State officials also plan to open a Good To Go office next Wednesday in Gig Harbor, where bridge commuters can obtain transponders and set up accounts.

Sign-ups also can be done online or by phone.

Senate Bill 5391, signed Wednesday by the governor, allows toll enforcement to be done with cameras that will take pictures of the license plates of vehicles that cross the bridge without paying the toll.

Scofflaws will receive a citation in the mail and can appeal the ticket.

The $49 fine includes a $9 surcharge that goes to pay off the bridge construction loans.

The same fines will apply to a nine-mile section of state

Route 167 between Auburn and Renton when those carpool lanes open in 2009.

Solo drivers will be able to buy their way into the faster-moving carpool lanes by paying a toll.

The governor Wednesday also signed bills that let:

* Washington State Patrol troopers work until they're age 65, instead of making them retire at 60.

* Police officers impound motorcycles, buses and commercial vehicles if the drivers don't have the special license endorsement that allows them to operate those vehicles.

* Employees of Washington's American Indian tribes apply for health insurance coverage from the same programs that now offer coverage to state and local go vernment workers.

Senate Bill 5391

Modifying photo enforcement of traffic infraction provisions.