Toll among options for U.S. 2 trestle

In five to 10 years, anyone driving from Everett to Monroe on U.S. 2 might have to pay directly to do it.

That toll, however, could pay for a new trestle and a bypass around Monroe’s commercial development.

In 20 years, by 2030, drivers could be paying just to get onto I-5.

These are among the many possibilities suggested in two recent reports on the future of transportation in the state.

One study was completed by consultants for the state Legislature to look at transportation funding choices in light of an expected decline in revenue from the state’s gas tax.

The other is a draft of a long-term transportation plan for the state put together by the Puget Sound Regional Council, a regional planning agency. A final version of the plan, called T-2040, is not expected to be approved until this spring.

Each report suggests the use of other methods of raising money, in addition to tolls, to pay for roads, buses and trains.

These include high-occupancy toll lanes, or “HOT lanes,” in which drivers pay to drive in the carpool lane during rush hours; electronic tracking of total miles driven; excise taxes; weight taxes and more.

With more fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles on the road all the time, “most folks expect diminishing returns from fuel-tax revenues,” said Rick Olson, spokesman for the regional council. “Transportation planners are tying to sort out what can replace more traditional approaches to things like fuel taxes.”

At the same time, the need for road improvements will not diminish but increase, officials said.

The state Legislature, where the final decision on funding methods will rest, will likely consider the measures next year, said state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee.

Lawmakers put together their budgets in odd-numbered years, with adjustments made in between.

The suggestion for using a toll to pay for improvements on U.S. 2 and the projection of all-toll freeways by 2030 were included in the plan by the regional council.

The council’s board of directors is made up of 32 elected officials from King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson is the chairman, while Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, county councilman Dave Somers and Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine also serve on the board.

Somers said that while he doesn’t specifically advocate a toll for U.S. 2, he wanted to make sure the highway was included in the plan. Most of the federal money that comes to Washington state for transportation flows through the council, based on the plans it has on the books.

“We wanted U.S. 2 improvements and a new trestle on the regional list (in the study),” Somers said. “It falls in that category of major projects, which there’s no way to pay for unless we consider tolling.”

A combination of tolls, federal, state or other funds could be used to pay for U.S. 2 improvements, Stephanson said.

“My expectation is that the state and particularly the federal government will step up and be a significant contributor to the expansion of U.S. 2.”

Dollar amounts that tolls could raise for any particular project are not included in either the regional council study or the one done for the Legislature.

No dollar amount has been estimated for a new trestle or Monroe bypass. A state study is currently assessing options for the U.S. 2 corridor between Snohomish and Everett and is expected to be finished in 2011. A draft is expected this fall.

Somers envisions a new trestle parallel to the current one. The state Legislature will need a specific project and a price tag before it makes any decision about funding for U.S. 2, Sen. Haugen said.

She’s not sold on the idea.

“I think tolling is not the answer for that,” she said. “Right now I don’t see us doing anything on U.S. 2. The state isn’t ready to go there yet.”

Regarding the regional council’s notion that all freeways in the region could be toll roads by 2030, Haugen said, “I doubt that.”

The legislative study outlines several scenarios of how much could be raised from some of the various other funding methods, but not from tolls because of too many uncertainties, said Kathy Scanlan, a partner in the Cedar River Group of Seattle, which conducted the study.

Each study suggests a phasing-in of tolling over a period of years. This would be done by use of HOT lanes, already in use on Highway 167 in the Kent valley.

The legislative study lists Highway 520, the Alaskan Way tunnel, I-405, Highway 167 and the bridge from Vancouver, Wash. to Portland as the first places where full tolling could be implemented first.

On Highway 167’s high-occupancy toll lanes, drivers are charged by the mile through the use of stickers attached to windshields that are read electronically, said Mike Cummings, a program manager for the regional council.

The fee is adjusted according to the congestion on the freeway at the time. The fee per mile is displayed on reader boards along the highway, Cummings said.

Similar methods could be used for other toll roads, using the miles-driven formula to assess taxes or fees on a broader scale, all electronically.

Assessing tolls by total miles driven could be phased in also, at a penny a mile by 2020 and 2 cents a mile by 2030, according to the regional council draft.

This will have to happen first on a federal or multi-state scale, officials said, because vehicles crossing state lines would not be charged for wear and tear on the roads.

Also, “there’s a lot of concerns about privacy and how would it work,” Scanlan said.

A majority of 1,200 people who responded to a recent regional council poll favored tolls to pay for roads.

“Nobody really would want to say I’d love to have tolls,” Cummings said. “But on the other hand we’re going to have to do something. The issue becomes how we do it.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Everett
Red Robin to pay $600K for harassment at Everett location

A consent decree approved Friday settles sexual harassment and retaliation claims by four victims against the restaurant chain.

A Tesla electric vehicle is seen at a Tesla electric vehicle charging station at Willow Festival shopping plaza parking lot in Northbrook, Ill., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. A Tesla driver who had set his car on Autopilot was “distracted” by his phone before reportedly hitting and killing a motorcyclist Friday on Highway 522, according to a new police report. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tesla driver on Autopilot caused fatal Highway 522 crash, police say

The driver was reportedly on his phone with his Tesla on Autopilot on Friday when he crashed into Jeffrey Nissen, killing him.

Janet Garcia walks into the courtroom for her arraignment at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, April 22, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mother pleads not guilty in stabbing death of Ariel Garcia, 4

Janet Garcia, 27, appeared in court Monday unrestrained, in civilian clothes. A judge reduced her bail to $3 million.

magniX employees and staff have moved into the company's new 40,000 square foot office on Seaway Boulevard on Monday, Jan. 18, 2020 in Everett, Washington. magniX consolidated all of its Australia and Redmond operations under one roof to be home to the global headquarters, engineering, manufacturing and testing of its electric propulsion systems.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Harbour Air plans to buy 50 electric motors from Everett company magniX

One of the largest seaplane airlines in the world plans to retrofit its fleet with the Everett-built electric propulsion system.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Driver arrested in fatal crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

The driver reportedly rear-ended Jeffrey Nissen as he slowed down for traffic. Nissen, 28, was ejected and died at the scene.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
3 charged with armed home invasion in Mountlake Terrace

Elan Lockett, Rodney Smith and Tyler Taylor were accused of holding a family at gunpoint and stealing their valuables in January.

PAWS Veterinarian Bethany Groves in the new surgery room at the newest PAWS location on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New Snohomish hospital makes ‘massive difference’ for wild animals

Lynnwood’s Progressive Animal Welfare Society will soon move animals to its state of the art, 25-acre facility.

Traffic builds up at the intersection of 152nd St NE and 51st Ave S on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to weigh in on how Marysville will look in 20 years

Marysville is updating its comprehensive plan and wants the public to weigh in on road project priorities.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.