Bridge faces new initiative threat
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:08 AM
"Randy Boss has left a message for the state's lawmakers that he hopes he'll be able to answer himself.Easily the most vocal opponent of the state's plan to construct a new toll bridge alongside the existing Tacoma Narrows span, Boss this week filed a legislative initiative that asks the state's lawmakers to vote yes or no on the question of whether the state should be able to toll an existing road or bridge.And the Gig Harbor real estate broker aims to give the matter his personal attention once it arrives in Olympia, since he's currently challenging incumbent Rep. Pat Lantz for a seat in the state legislature from the 26th District.I'm throwing a pass to myself, he said. I've wasted too much time asking others to do this job for me. Now I intend to go to Olympia and start working on the problem from the inside.Boss and other members of the Peninsula Neighborhood Association last summer filed suit against the state Department of Transportation, alleging a laundry list of legal and constitutional violations in the state's plan to contract with a private company, United Infrastructure Washington, to build and maintain the bridge. When that suit was dismissed in January by a Thurston County Superior Court judge, the group appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court.The case was heard this spring and a ruling is expected by mid-September. It will be a political announcement as well as a courtroom announcement, Boss told his supporters by e-mail this week. I'm picking up signs we're going to win.In the meantime, Boss hedged his bets by filing Initiative 247.If passed, the initiative would effectively cripple the current bridge plan, which sidesteps a current state law preventing the state from tolling an existing road or bridge by limiting the standing Narrows Bridge to westbound traffic only while building a new bridge for eastbound traffic. The old bridge could be crossed for free, but the new bridge would carry a $3 toll.Inititiative 247, which would require 200,000 signatures before lawmakers were required to act on it, prohibits:* the use of tolls or user fees derived from any source for the purpose of paying the costs of capital-related improvements, operation, maintenance, upkeep or restoration of an existing surfaced road or bridge;* the leasing, franchising, or transferring by any means, to a public or private entity any portion of an existing surfaced road or bridge that requires the imposition of tolls or user fees derived from any source for the purpose of paying the costs of capital-related improvements, operation, maintenance, upkeep or restoration of that existing surfaced road or bridge; and,* no other provision of law shall limit or encumber the public's continued lawful two-way toll-free use of any surfaced road or bridge that at any time was operated by the department as a two-way toll-free facility.For Boss, the measure is a win-win proposition. Even if lawmakers vote it down, the initiative would show up again on the November ballot, where the general public would get a chance to vote for it. Meanwhile United Infrastructure, which had planned to break ground on the new bridge in January, would be forced to delay the start of construction until the question was resolved. No bonding agency in the world would sell bonds for a project with an initiative hanging over its head, Boss said. It's too risky.Then, too, the initiative serves the purpose of keeping the bridge issue - not coincidently the cornerstone of Boss' candidacy - in the news.It's bad for the bridge and good for me, Boss joked. What could be better? "