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City takes issue with tolls

"The Port Orchard City Council has drafted a letter formally expressing its disapproval of the state's proposal to add tolls to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.Councilman Bob Geiger recommended the council say something, even if it is somewhat tardy, to let legislators know cities oppose tolling the proposed second Narrows Bridge. A state highway that goes over water shouldn't be the private expense of local citizens any more than a state highway that goes over land, he said, adding, They replaced the Hood Canal Bridge without tolls.Mayor Jay Weatherill said the city doesn't think there should be tolls at all on the bridge. It's part of the highway system and the state should cover it, he said. Every time they build a new road they don't put a toll on it.He said there seems to have been an element of inertia on the part of cities in stating their disapproval of adding tolls to the second bridge. There's an element of rush on this thing now. You have to do something or nothing at the legislature. I want to do something to let them know things aren't well out here. We have been silent. It doesn't hurt to voice your opinion. It doesn't cost more than a piece of paper, he said.The council approved a motion to draft the letter and circulate it among other cities' councils, with one dissenting vote from Councilman Warren Van Zee. This has been in the public domain for three or four years now, he said. The decision has been made that it's going to be a toll bridge. We're way, way late in trying to stop the whole scheme of things. And, if so, where's the funds to build it? Councilman John Clauson raised a point regarding ferry tariffs. What's the difference between tolls on the bridge and tolls on the ferry? The ferry system is a state highway, he said.Melode Sapp, executive director of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce said tolls are only likely to slow the economy in Port Orchard if they're unreasonably high. Unless they are exorbitant, I don't think it'll have an extreme impact on attracting businesses, if we're able to provide adequate infrastructure. I think it's something a business would overlook if everything else was there, she said.She added she didn't foresee tolls stopping visitors from coming to Port Orchard. There used to be tolls on the bridge. I still went to Tacoma when I wanted to, she said.The council approved drafting the letter, but Councilwoman Carolyn Powers suggested routing it through the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council - once other cities have seen it - to ensure Kitsap County's concerns are represented with one voice.In Van Zee's dissent to drafting and sending the letter, he expressed concern with additional fees applied as construction is delayed on the bridge. I personally don't want the bridge at all, but to try to delay it further is just a cost to the taxpayer, he said. It's too late now. "

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