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Bridge transponders to go on sale

Although the toll prices for the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge (TNB) have not been officially set yet, commuters anxious to launch their pre-paid accounts can do so beginning today.

Janet Matkin of the Washington State Department of Transportation said that her office will open the Good To Go! Customer Service Center today in Gig Harbor.

Beginning at 10 a.m., customers can get transponders along with free coffee and muffins at the WSDOT’s office at 3214 50th Street Court NW in Gig Harbor, which Matkin said is in the “Westside Business Center.”

For South Kitsap residents who want to open an account but do not want to drive to Gig Harbor, Matkin said officials will be in Port Orchard tomorrow, April 26, in front of the Wal-Mart on Bethel Road from 3 to 7 p.m.

As for what toll amount commuters will pay, Matkin said that will be discussed tomorrow when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee meets to do a “little tweaking” of the recommendations it created last January.

“The Washington Transportation Commission asked the CAC to go back and look at the whole issue again,” Matkin said, explaining that the committee formulated the recommendations before knowing whether appropriations for potential toll discounts would be finalized in the state budget.

On Monday, state Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) said a $1.3 million appropriation to enable a toll discount for commuters was in the Legislative budget.

“But with that amount, the account gets a little thin, so I was able to add a line that set aside an additional $5 million that the toll account will have access to,” Kilmer said, explaining that he got verbal confirmation as the legislature was making the final touches to the budget last weekend that the intent of the money was to offer toll discounts.

“We’ve been pretty clear all along that it is the legislature’s desire that we see the discount,” he said.

In January, the CAC recommended a “cash toll price of $3 and an electronic toll collection (ETC) price of $1” — provided the toll account received an appropriation in the state budget, which at the time was expected to be $10 million.

Tonight, with the budget completed, Matkin said the CAC will be able to finalize their recommendations at the WSDOT TNB office from 6 to 8 p.m. at 3214 50th St Ct, NW, Building D-302, Gig Harbor.

If all goes well, she said the CAC will then present the recommendations to the WTC on April 30 for final approval.

Tolls are scheduled to begin with the opening of the new bridge in summer 2007.

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