E-NEWS UPDATE: Lowering Narrows Bridge Toll Rates

Sen Jan Angel E-Newsletter

Hello Friends!

Today is the last day to pass bills out of policy committee in the house in which the bill started – either the Senate or the House. That means I’ve been working hard to build support for my bills and presenting them in committee hearings for the past couple of weeks.

After today’s cutoff, any bills that have an impact on the budget have to be passed in fiscal committee before next Tuesday, either in Transportation or Ways and Means. By that point we’ll be halfway through the legislative session already!

It all happens very fast in a short session, but I’m very excited about the progress we’re making on some of the solutions I proposed this year. Below you can read more in-depth on a couple of the issues on which I’m helping make some seriously needed changes.

Please let me know if you have any questions about our work in Olympia or if you have an idea for how I can help our government serve you better.

-Jan


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Telephone Town Hall Feb. 24

Save the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 pm for my telephone town hall. More info will be coming soon!


Lowering Narrows Bridge Toll Rates

Angel committee 1

Continual toll increases on the Narrows Bridge is a constant burden for businesses and commuters in our community. Ever since they made it a toll bridge and charted a steep upward course for the toll rates, I’ve been looking for a way to bring those tolls down.

In the original financing of this bridge, the plan had the tolls consistently increasing. They projected the usage of the bridge would increase accordingly, but that has not happened. That is why I continue to look for ways to reduce our tolls as there is currently no contingency plan in place by the Department of Transportation.

Since the toll rates are set by the Washington State Transportation Commission, an independent and unelected board, we have limited control of toll rates. Last session I affected a diversion of 57 million dollars in sales tax on the bridge to be paid after the bridge is paid off in 2030. This will stabilize our toll rates from 2019 forward.

This year I brought forward another bill, Senate Bill 6472 – Concerning the payment of certain required costs of the Tacoma Narrows toll bridge. This bill has already had a hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee. To simplify how it works, it basically does four things:

  1. It establishes and funds a separate Narrows Bridge sufficient minimum balance account.
  2. It allows for the monies currently in the bridge account to meet this significant minimum balance requirement and to be utilized to cover current operating costs, including debt payment.
  3. The release of those funds currently in the account, about 9 million dollars, would allow for tolls to be adjusted downward.
  4. This could provide a welcome short-term relief from the current toll increases and any future increases will be against the lower base toll.

I will keep you posted on the progress of the bill this session.


Reforms badly needed at the State Building Code Council

Another very important bill for me this session is the State Building Code Council reform bill. Having served in county government, I well know the importance of this council, therefore when an opening arose, I eagerly pursued being appointed by the Senate to this council.

I was very excited about helping the Council, however, it has become a point of total frustration. Therefore, I introduced a bill to help provide transparency and accountability to this council. Senate Bill 6525 would basically do three things:

  1. It would clearly establish the State Building Code Council as an entity under the Department of Enterprises Services.
  2. It would clearly establish that the appointed representatives to the council must continuously represent sectors, both public and private, to which they were appointed during their entire term of service.
  3. It establishes a legislative task force to review and make recommendations regarding the council’s operations.

This would be a great help to our housing, real estate and building industries as they depend on consistent and responsive rules for buildings. The State Building Code Council is responsible for the rules governing the buildings that we use every day and we desperately need transparency, accountability and these reforms. This bill has also received a hearing here in the Senate.


The Latest on Ferry Ridership

Washington State Ferries posted their numbers for ferry ridership last year, showing a clear increase after several years of decline. Of note is the fact that the fourth and fifth busiest routes were routes serving our community: Southworth-Vashon and Bremerton-Seattle. Take a look at the latest numbers from Washington State Ferries below:

ferry ridership