The Seattle Times editorial board opposes Initiative 1125, which would make it more difficult for the state to finance new roads and bridges by using tolls.
BY restricting the state’s management of its highways, including tolls, Initiative 1125 would make it more difficult to build needed roads and bridges.
The whole state has an interest in this. Tolls are a way to help pay for expensive parts without dipping too heavily into the common pot. Without tolls, the biggest projects either would not get built, or would guzzle all the other road money. That is how a toll on the Highway 520 bridge-replacement project in Seattle protects money in Yakima and in Spokane.
I-1125 should be voted down. Sponsored by Tim Eyman and Bellevue businessman Kemper Freeman, it would forbid tolls that varied by day of the week or time of day, as are planned for the Highway 520 project. But a variable toll raises more money. Also, by charging more at peak times, it causes some drivers not to go at those times and keeps traffic moving.
The initiative would forbid tolls on one bridge to pay for another, so that a toll could not be put on Interstate 90 to help pay for the 520 project. But the 520 project needs tolls from I-90. State Treasurer Jim McIntire has said that without them, he cannot sell the revenue bonds for the project at reasonable rates of interest.
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I-1125 would also require that the tolls be set by the Legislature, rather than the Transportation Commission. But McIntire has said that if the toll-setting is put in the hands of politicians, revenue bonds are likewise not doable.
The sponsors of I-1125 would have all such bonds guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the state. But that puts the taxpayers in Yakima and Spokane on the hook for debt on all of the 520 bridge project.
The Seattle Times does not want tolls to become a general-purpose tax any more than the sponsors of I-1125 do. But their measure is unduly restrictive. It would mess up the 520 project. It would mess up the Columbia River bridge project at Vancouver. It would even mess up Sound Transit’s plan to run light rail across I-90.
That is a mess too large. Please vote no on Initiative 1125.