CORRECTION TO THIS POST: At the end of the presentation of this bill for a hearing, Committee Chair Judy Clibborn explained that the purpose of this bill is NOT HB 2071 which was to make the toll lanes on SR167 permanent (and available for bonding). That bill appears to have been abandoned and replaced with HB 2179 which simply extends the pilot program of SR167 to match the pilot schedule of the #405ETL. In this way they will be handled collectively along with I-405 as a complete system. Without this bill, the toll lanes on SR167 would be canceled at the end of the current pilot period in June.
The tolls on SR167 have proven to be even more expensive to operate than the tolls on I-405. The revenue collected was $4.5 million while it cost $4.2 million to operate them for a total of only $300,000 dollars in “profit”. That is an insane 93.3% operating costs! Only 6.7% of the money collected from the tolls is available for improvements to the highway. Yet that $300,000 cost tax payers $4.5 million out of their pockets. Meanwhile it has done absolutely nothing to improve congestion on that road.
So my sincere apologies to Representative Clibborn for the confusion on which bill this is being considered and thanks for the clarification. At the same time, the closer examination of the financial viability and other problems with SR167 demonstrate it is an even greater failure than the toll lanes on I-405 and need to be discontinued immediately, regardless of what happens with the rest of the system. The video of the bill review can be watched here.
Original blog article below:
House Bill HB 2179 will give WSDOT permission to create bonds against the future toll revenue of SR167 immediately. (note that the bill digest only states this bill extends the pilot project of SR167 tolls while the actual bill states it opens them to bonding. See section 1, lines 7-14)
There are several fundamental problems with this bill that make it a terrible idea:
The state has not yet confirmed the tolls will continue past the test period.
It makes no sense to bond the tolls when the state is still in the middle of testing the concept. The chairs of both transportation committees were committed to deferring any decision on the tolls until the 2 year test period ends in October. For this same reason, no action should be made on bonding until it is confirmed the tolls will persist. The fact that these toll lanes were the first segment of toll lanes built is irrelevant. It has been stated many times by all parties involved that these highways must be treated as one integrated system, not managed in pieces.
Bonding against future tolls makes congestion permanent.
By bonding against future toll revenue, it locks us into an agreement with the bond holders that prohibits doing anything that might jeopardize our ability to pay back the bond. For example, it would prevent adjusting the carpool requirements from 3+ to 2+ or changing the hours of operation or using any future technology that would make toll lanes obsolete. It would make it far more difficult to change the tolls later in response to continued public objection, safety and performance problems persist, a change in taxing methods, or new technology provides a better solution to congestion. (Which is highly likely given the rate of change in technology advancements.)
In other words, bonding permanently locks us into congestion because without congestion, the tolls would not produce revenue and without revenue, the bonds could not be paid. It is an affront to taxpayers that it would turn traffic congestion into a state asset.
Florida and Texas are both already facing this very problem dealing with bonds as they are already working to eliminate their failed toll lanes. Note that WSDOT used these two states as references when they proposed the #405ETL. It would be smart to learn from their mistakes now rather than continue down the same path.
Finally, bonding puts the state deeper in debt.
Paying interest on bonds costs more than paying with cash in a pay-as-you-go strategy and makes those funds unavailable when new, unforeseen needs arise. It spends money before we have it and obligates us to a future of indebtedness and financial risk. This seems to have become the American way of dealing with personal finances. But it doesn’t work. The deeper we bury the state in debt, the worse things will be for future generations.
Bonding the tolls does not create any more revenue. There is no long term benefit, only immediate gratification. Obviously, the only reason for rushing this bill through before the test period is complete is to lock in the tolls with bonds so that they cannot be easily removed if and when the failing results of the Express Toll Lanes on I-405 are revealed. This bill is hasty and reckless with our transportation system.
I urge you to click here use the state’s website to send an email to all three of your legislators to vote NO on HB 1279.
- Just type in your address and click the Verify Address button so it can determine who your legislators are.
- Then click the OPPOSE button.
- Then give a comment in the Comment field and send it. If two out of three people reading this actually do it, the bill will likely fail.
5 minutes and 3 clicks to avoid a lifetime of toll payments is worth your time, yes?
Please Send it now.