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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Washington Senate authorizes tolling on I-5 Bridge

House must still approve measure; other issues remain to be settled

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 6, 2023, 7:30pm
4 Photos
Tolls are one step closer to returning to the Interstate 5 Bridge after the state Senate passed a bill allowing for tolling on the bridge.
Tolls are one step closer to returning to the Interstate 5 Bridge after the state Senate passed a bill allowing for tolling on the bridge. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Tolls are one step closer to returning to the Interstate 5 Bridge.

The Washington Senate passed a bill authorizing tolling on the Interstate 5 Bridge on Wednesday. It passed 32-16 and received bipartisan support.

The bill now goes to the House and, if approved, will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

Still to be decided is how much tolls will cost and how soon they will go into effect. The rate will be set by the Oregon and Washington transportation commissions and the date will be set by a bistate agreement, although the bill requires the Secretary of Transportation’s signoff that sufficient federal, state and local funds are in place to complete the project before tolls can be levied.

Program officials are studying rates between $1.50 and $3.55 per trip. Officials say they plan to use variable-rate tolling, meaning tolls will be higher during rush hour than in the middle of the night. A discounted rate for low-income individuals is also being discussed.

Tolling is expected to generate $1.2 billion of the bridge replacement program’s estimated $6 billion cost, with state and federal funds making up the rest.

The bill stipulates that tolls may not be charged on Washington’s portion of Interstate 205.

If reinstated, it will be the third time travelers will need to pay to cross the 106-year-old bridge.

Unlike in the past, drivers will not need to slow down and plop their toll token in a bucket or fork over cash at a toll booth. Rather, if tolls are reinstated, they will be charged via a toll transponder or a bill in the mail, no slowing down or stopping required.

“Our grandparents and parents were willing to pay tolls to improve our futures,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, in a press release.

“We must step up now and be willing to make the same investment, so our children and grandchildren can travel safely and benefit from economic opportunities a new bridge will bring to our district — anything less is selfish and shortsighted,” Cleveland continued.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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Columbian staff writer