Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls jump 25 cents

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The Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll rates increased 25 cents Monday, the first of two increases approved by the Washington State Transportation Commission in May. The second 25-cent increase will take effect on July 1, 2014.

Good to Go electronic tolls are now $4.25, and tollbooth and pay-by-mail tolls are $5.25 and $6.25, respectively.

Officials financed the project by backloading the debt to keep tolls as low as possible when the span opened in July 2007.

Officials assumed increases in tolls -- the financing plan anticipated $1 toll increases every three years to a maximum of $6 in 2016 -- and usage from population growth would generate enough money to make the escalating debt payments.

But the annual traffic count has remained flat, and revenue has increased only after a toll hike. The traffic count has hovered around 14 million per year, and the budget year that ended Sunday is projected to show the lowest revenue level since the eastbound span opened. The bridge was projected to take in $60.6 million in revenue in the prior budget year thanks to a toll hike in July 2012, the first increase in four years.

Tollpayers faced the prospect of a steeper rate hike this year, but the Transportation Commission allowed some flexibility in how it accounts for an emergency cushion for extended closure.