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Narrows Bridge committee leery of photo-tolling

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee voted on Wednesday night to recommend a toll of $7 for drivers using the photo-tolling option once tollbooths are removed from the span starting in January.

But first the members made clear their dissatisfaction with the concept of photo-tolling in general.

With representatives from both the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Transportation Commission in attendance at this week's regular meeting in Gig Harbor, committee member Jim Pasin said, "I want to make a very strong statement that we don't want this system on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge."

"My philosophy is that when something's not broke it doesn't need fixing," agreed Amy Igloi-Matsuno, who represents Port Orchard on the Committee. "And our current system isn't broke."

Currently, drivers crossing the the bridge have the option of either purchasing a Good to Go transponder for their windshield and paying $2.75 per trip or paying $4 in cash at the tollbooth.

But under photo-tolling, the tollbooths would be removed and those without transponders would have their license plate number recorded by a high-speed camera and the vehicle's registered owner would be sent a bill in the mail.

The committee members, fearing the violation rate under such a system would be enormous, favored a toll of $7 in order to discourage use of that option as much as possible.

"I can tell you for a fact that your costs to administer this system are going to be enormous," Pasin said, "and if you don't set the toll and the violation fees high, we're going to lose a lot of money."

Under the proposal adopted Wednesday, a $5 late fee would be assessed if the bill wasn’t paid within 30 days.

If the bill was left unpaid for 80 days, a $40 civil penalty would be added.

The recommendations of the advisory board, however, are just that -- advisory. And the state isn't obligated to accept them, a fact not lost on those attending the meeting.

"I can't figure out why we're here at all," said Gig Harbor resident Randy Boss. "You're asking the board to insert itself into this process when it doesn't have enough information to make an informed decision, and it's all pointless since the state is going to do whatever it wants anyway.

"We might as well all go home," he said, "and just let the Transportation Commission set the toll rates, because that's exactly what's going to happen."

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