Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during a morning commute last March in Lake Stevens. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Westbound cars merge from Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast onto the trestle during a morning commute last March in Lake Stevens. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Pay a toll on US 2 trestle? 10,000 say no on social media

A GOP lawmaker’s chart shows theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one way.

LAKE STEVENS — Rebuilding the westbound U.S. 2 trestle could cost up to $1 billion. A state study is looking at all the possible pots that kind of money could come from — and it’s a long list.

But it’s a Republican lawmaker’s social media post of a chart showing theoretical toll rates of up to $6.30 to cross the trestle one-way that has sparked outcry.

Marysville resident Jennifer Boies Fraser started an online petition in response to Rep. Mark Harmsworth’s Facebook post.

The petition calls on state leaders to make a public “no tolls” pledge.

“Getting 10,000 signatures in three days — I think the people have expressed their will,” Boies Fraser said. “The question is, will our legislators honor us?”

State transportation planners say it’s early in the process and that tolls are only one possible source for a project that will certainly require multiple funding sources.

All the more reason to get the no-tolling message out there now, Boies Fraser said.

The trestle is a familiar route for her family of six, which moved to south Marysville to help plant a church. Many social and church-related ties remain in Everett. Her husband travels U.S. 2 daily to get to work. There are times they cross the bridge several times in a single day.

Others express similar outrage at the very idea of tolls on the trestle.

Most cite our state’s status as having the second-highest gas tax in the country. Many folks also are seeing steep bills for Sound Transit light rail and bus projects. There is lingering resentment about tolling on I-405.

Meanwhile, the few alternate routes across the soggy flatland often are just as clogged as U.S. 2 and add more travel time, stymieing those who wouldn’t be able to afford to add a toll to their commuting costs.

“Tolling without alternatives is nothing short of hostage-taking,” Boies Fraser said.

Some readers were more nuanced.

The chart showed potential toll rates ranging from $1.50 to $6.30 and averaging about $2.50 to $3.60, depending on time of day, based on 2025 and 2040 dollars. (The chart notes that $1 in 2025 is equal to about 84 cents today.)

Bruce Morton, of Lake Stevens, doesn’t like the high figures.

“Despite that, I’d be willing to pay a reasonable toll to put the trestle at the top of the list of state projects,” Morton said, putting it at $1 each way.

A simple, flat toll rate makes the most sense, he added, rather than the variable tolling used on I-405 that changes based on peak commuting hours.

“Most do not have the flexibility to change their work hours. It’s not fair to use pricing to force people to change their schedule,” he said.

Reader James Harmon, of Lake Stevens, disagreed and supports any kind of toll. For Harmon, tolling even a single lane could force more people to give up the driving-solo habit, which he sees as the bigger problem than the number of lanes.

“Most of us, if we’re being honest, can probably share a vehicle with someone else, or choose another mode of transportation,” said Harmon, who bikes and takes transit to his job in Seattle.

The study that prompted this firestorm is focused on funding and financing options. It’s due to lawmakers by Jan. 8.

“These are really rough numbers, early numbers,” said John White, assistant regional administrator at Washington State Department of Transportation.

Ultimately, lawmakers would have to authorize tolling.

Besides tolling, the funding and financing study will also look at bonds, loans, grants and public-private partnerships, as well as local options, such as a transportation benefit district.

A more extensive study, called an interchange justification report, would be the one to detail the various options for rebuilding the trestle — such as whether it’s three lanes or four. That’s due in July.

“So we’re covering all the bases with this (funding) study. The IJR at the end of the day will make a much more clear recommendation,” White said.

Even after that, a new trestle is years away.

These are “early studies.”

“One of the struggles here — and I can certainly identify with community members who feel caught off-guard by this — this funding and financing study … doesn’t provide for a broader community process,” White said.

That time will come, he stressed. “There’s a big public process that would be coming so that everyone can be thoroughly informed and ask questions and have them answered along the way.”

For now, White says he gives the folks calling him upset about the idea of tolls the same message: “Hey, nobody’s making decisions on any of this at this point.”

Public officials since at least 2010 have noted tolls might be necessary in building a new trestle span.

Costs have skyrocketed since the eastbound two-lane span was rebuilt in stages from 1991 to 2002 for $110 million. New environmental and seismic rules, inflation, and plans for more lanes are among the reasons, WSDOT spokeswoman Kris Olsen said.

Since 2007, the state has relied on tolls to help pay for other large bridge projects.

Tolls are being used on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the Highway 520 floating bridge to pay off construction bonds for those new spans. In Tacoma, toll rates have nearly tripled since they started in 2007. Lawmakers have stepped in to freeze those rates twice, holding them steady since 2015.

Melissa Slager: streetsmarts@heraldnet.com, 425-339-3432

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