Bridge bills are small comfort, but we’ll take it

You know you’re playing for big stakes when $50 million seems little more than a drop in the bucket.

But such is the magnitude of the burden with which commuters will be saddled when the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge opens next year that plans introduced last week in both houses of the Washington State Legislature designed to shave that much off the price of the project don’t generate as much enthusiasm as they perhaps should.

At this point, anything that helps at all is a step in the right direction. But when you’re dealing with a structure that’s projected to cost $850 million, it’s cold comfort to know that those still paying the toll — however much it is then — when the rest of us are dead and buried will be able to pay it off a few years earlier than planned.

Newly elected 26th District Rep. Derek Kilmer may be excused from this discussion because he wasn’t in office when the Legislature finally voted a few years ago to go ahead with the construction. Consequently, saving our great-grandchildren a few bucks is about all we can ask from him.

As for Rep. Pat Lantz and Sen. Bob Oke, both of whom were instrumental in cutting the deals that green-lighted the bridge project in the face of an advisory election that indicated well over 60 percent of their constituents didn’t want it, we can’t help thinking thanks for small favors.

Oke sponsored two bills during the current session, one of which would exempt tollpayers from the sale-and-use taxes charged on machinery and equipment used to construct the bridge.

Kilmer authored a similar bill, which Lantz supported, but his would only take effect if tollpayers paid 80 percent of the total cost of the bridge. Oke’s bill would require the tollpayers to pay 90 percent.

Oke’s second bill would require the proceeds of any land purchased for the bridge project and subsequently sold be used to help pay off the debt.

That’s a nice gesture but, again, it doesn’t figure to ever benefit anyone currently living or commuting over the bridge.

None of which is to say $50 million is anything to sneeze at. Just don’t ask us to be overly grateful that something we didn’t want in the first place is going to cost our descendants a few pennies less.

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