Washington Lawmakers Consider Blocking Local Tolls, Allowing Lane Splitting

Cities, counties and other local government agencies would be barred from imposing pay-per-mile charges and other tolls on motorists under legislation making its way through the Washington legislature. The state Senate Transportation Committee last month voted 9 to 5 to approve a bill repealing existing authorities that allow transportation business districts to toll bridges and other roads passing through their jurisdiction. If approved, the plan introduced by Senator Tim Sheldon (D-Hoodsport) would reserve all tolling authority to the state government and the port authorities currently setting up toll bridges over the Columbia River.

“The state legislature should have authority and jurisdiction for tolling,” Sheldon explained during a committee hearing on his bill. “It concerns mostly Seattle at this point, but [tolling] could flourish in other cities without this bill. This is about the low-income people who need to get into the city.”

Seattle specifically wants to add tolls to raise revenue for various local projects. Sheldon also put forward a companion bill would ban the collection of a per-mile tax or road user charge in any rural county. Sheldon argued the proposal is necessary because rural motorists must necessarily drive farther than city dwellers, and a per-mile tax would impose a greater burden on rural constituents.