For Whom the Tolls Bill

Having grown up using the Illinois toll roads, I really hate tolls. But I hate traffic jams, pot holes, unsafe highways, collapsed highway infrastructure, and sinking floating bridges even worse than tolls. So, perhaps this solution to funding our regional transportation infrastructure will grow on me.

A report prepared at the direction of King County Executive Ron Sims advocates turning all major freeways from Everett to Lakewood, near Fort Lewis, into payas- you-go roadways. According to the draft report, dated March 5, 2007, all vehicles except transit and emergency responders would pay a fee to travel within this network of major highways, with cost determined by time of day and distance driven.

The report proposes charging [tolls] on all major roadways, including Interstate 5, State Route 520, Interstate 405, Interstate 90 as far east as Issaquah, State Route 509, State Route 167 from Auburn to Renton, State Route 518 and parts of State Route 99.

The report’s authors emphasize that their suggestions are meant to be starting points for regional discussion. That said, to achieve the dual benefits of lessened traffic congestion and raising enough money to pay for necessary transportation improvements, the authors suggest charging every car $2 for a typical morning commute. That same trip at 3 a.m. would cost $1. However, someone driving from Tacoma to Woodinville at the height of the afternoon commute would pay $8, the maximum for any single trip. Fees for large trucks would be double those prices.

One of the most annoying aspects of tolls is the traffic backups and slowdowns at toll booths. The proposed system might well eliminate this problem by digitally identifying all vehicles—using an electronic ID or by photographing the license plates of cars without an electronic ID. I’m not so sure they will have much luck billing visitors from out of state.

Aside: One trade-off for this system is in privacy. Electronic records of our every movement on the highways create privacy issues—even beyond all the traffic cams being put up. I suspect the very same people who scream that highway users should pay as they go (rather than taxing everyone) will be the first to demand anonymity when using the highways.

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4 Responses to “For Whom the Tolls Bill”

  1. SeattleJew Says:

    I like the idea of tolls. For one thing they realistically distribute the cost of people’s choices of where to live. I wonder what would happen to Seattle real estate is Msofties had to pay to live in Seattle?

    Also, tolls can be used to encourage mass transit.

    Or to buy a basketball stadium

  2. Darryl Says:

    Hi SeattleJew,

    I would have far fewer objection to tolls if they didn’t cause traffic disruptions seen using traditional toll technology. Maybe they will figure a way to make that happen.

    As for mass transit. Yes, indeed. The reduced highway congestion would be a huge plus. I know I would take the bus more frequently than I do now if there was a toll on SR520. If they do put in tolls, I hope they do so for the entire region, rather than for just a few places.

    One looming issue is whether the state legally can use tolls as a general revenue mechanism. I am told that the SR520 toll of the distant past was killed by the state Supreme Court after the revenue had paid off the costs of the bridge.

  3. GeoCrackr Says:

    Fuck toll roads! I already pay taxes — when they stop giving my tax money away to pay off extortion by sports franchise owners, if they still don’t have enough money for roads then we’ll talk.

    I had enough of that shit back east.

  4. SeattleJew Says:


    I know there is some sort of constitutional issue, would like to hear more about that.


    The problem now is that Seayylr pays high taxes to subsidize the suburbs.

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