LAKE STEVENS, Wash. – Are you ready to pay a toll to cross the U.S. 2 trestle in Snohomish County?
State lawmakers instructed the Washington State Department of Transportation to study how to pay for a replacement of the trestle’s westbound lanes, and one part of the funding could come from tolling.
“If traffic is bad, I’ll go around it a different way,” said commuter Marty Person.
Ask almost anybody near Lake Stevens and they’ll say the particular stretch of U.S. 2 in Snohomish County is a nightmare bottleneck.
“Every single car has one person and that’s the driver,” said Steve Hensley.
To improve capacity, the Legislature asked WSDOT to figure out how to pay for improvements.
State Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, was one of several stakeholders to get a sneak peak of the study – and shared an image on social media detailing potential toll rates to help pay for the improvements.
“To focus so heavily on tolling, especially with the mess that was made on 405, I think this is the wrong approach,” he said.
One toll schedule shows drivers could pay more than $6. But WSDOT insists the study isn’t complete. So far the study is only in draft form and tolling is only one of several funding mechanisms being considered.
“That whole, huge area out there has grown like bananas,” said Travis Phelps with WSDOT.
“We have to find some way to replace that, keep traffic moving and also have enough cash when we do it to make sure whatever we build meets the needs out there and actually makes sense and plugs into the systems we have out there,” he said.
It wouldn’t be the first time tolls are used to help WSDOT pay for infrastructure. There are already tolls on I-405, SR 520, SR 16 – and when complete, the new SR 99 tunnel underneath Seattle will also have a toll.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Q13 News This Morning’s Adam Gehrke.
He thinks tolling may become a new steady revenue stream for transportation projects across the state.
“There already is talk of tolling our cars right now, so even if you’re doing surface driving street driving in through downtown or wherever, tolling drivers by the mile that they drive to use these cars,” said Gehrke.
WSDOT has until January 8 to complete the study and present recommendations to lawmakers in Olympia. But Harmsworth says tolling wouldn’t be fair for those who rely on the trestle every day.
“I want to catch this before it gets out of control and make sure folks in the area are aware of some of the decisions that are being put forward right now,” he said.
Some drivers worry another toll would be too much to shoulder, considering how the cost of living across our region continues to grow more expensive.
“I think that if there’s a $6.50 toll during peak hours, it’s going to encourage people to pay $2,000 for studio apartments down in Seattle,” said driver Scott Smith from Lake Stevens.
“I wouldn’t even take it at all at that point,” said commuter Person. “Might even move, honestly.”