Hwy 2 Trestle Update - Initial Studies Underway

Bonnie Johnson - Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Hwy 2 Trestle Update - Initial Studies Underway

Change.org’s now infamous petition against the tolling of Hwy 2 between Everett and Lake Stevens, which garnered over ten thousand signatures in less than three days, has crept up to 12,500 quietly over the last couple months. In early December, many major media outlets touted a potential toll of $6.30, a far-fetched and worst-case scenario that sent local Snohomish County citizens into an outraged panic.

The comments from signers are blunt: “Tolls disproportionately affect lower income people and add to the already onerous tax burden on middle class,” says one.

“You’re holding us hostage from Lake Stevens to anywhere and it isn’t right.”

“This would be a tremendous burden for already struggling families just trying to make a living.”

The complaints follow the same general lines; frustration at the state’s perceived inability to manage funds appropriately, accusations of lazy lawmakers, penalization of the middle class and outright ostracization of Lake Stevens altogether.

Since the mainstream media zealously latched onto the idea of $6.30 toll on the two miles stretch, the Washington State Department of Transportation has passed the first of two Trestle Funding and Finance Studies to state lawmakers. The new study suggests three potential funding options for a 3-4 lane wide new trestle which ranges, at its most costly estimate, up to $2.02B rather than the originally estimated $600M.

The study suggests three separate funding options for the trestle, two of which are toll based:

  • 1)A statewide Gas Tax Option. “Assuming a mix of pay-as-you-go and bonding, it would require the equivalent of a 3-cent statewide gas increase to generate about $1B.”
  • 2)Public Option – Funding Based Primarily on Tolls and Statewide Gas Tax. “Tolling represents a source of user-based revenue that could be implemented to fund a significant portion of the project.” The findings studies forecast that even “medium tolls” backed with significant funding from state, local and federal grants, as well as deferred payment of construction-related sales tax, still leave the effort falling $40M shy of even the lowest cost of the three-lane alternative.
  • 3)Public-Private-Partnership (P3) - Funding Based Primarily on Tolls and Statewide Gas Tax, but with an “evaluation of P3 contracting as another option that could be used to facilitate project delivery.” In short, the use of private financing and a negotiated transfer from the public entity to a private one. Washington allows for the formation of P3s but it is restricted and regulated. In this case, funding “still falls short … and would require the equivalent of about 1-and-2-cent statewide gas tax to reach the three- or- four lane alternatives base cost estimates.”

The potential tolling itself varies between option 2 and option 3, raging from 1.50 and non-escalated to 5.50 during peak hours and potentially raising over time. All of the potential options, without the full feedback of the companion study, still fall short of the costs needed in order to fully implement construction.

In the meantime, we continue to watch and wait. The proposed construction isn’t due to begin for an estimated 5-6 years, during which additional proposals and finance-seeking options will be considered, as well as environmental impact and/or Assessment studies, and Tier-2 studies related to local traffic infrastructure will be considered.

Information sourced directly from Washington State Legislature/District Finder: http://app.leg.wa.gov/ReportsToTheLegislature/Home/GetPDF?fileName=US2WestboundTrestleFunding_FinanceStudy_WithAppendixA_39aa2830-f3ed-432e-9ad6-615e391239c7.pdf

Commentary from posters provided by change.org.