During the meeting with the Columbian editorial board, the topic turned to tolling the I-5 bridge. Senator Rivers indicated her support for tolling, while John Ley and I expressed our opposition. I was actually thrown off by Senator Rivers’ statement “I think that tolls are a bedrock conservative value.” I hadn’t heard anything like that before from a supposedly conservative Republican. I thought that the conservative position is to favor reducing friction on the flow of goods and services so that the benefits of increased economic growth make up for the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure. That said, my immediate reaction was rooted in my displeasure at the thought of bringing tolls to Southwest Washington. Simply put, tolls are, too often, a hassle and a scam.
Tolls are a hassle in that they can increase traffic congestion and can be an annoyance to pay with cash. Though some of the hassle can be relieved by adopting new technology, the convenience of seamlessly paying the toll comes along with removing the conscious consideration of accepting the tax. The toll can become another bill in the mail that we just accept without question. I don’t think that’s how that should be done.
There are some inequality issues here as well. Why should someone who lives in Battle Ground or Ridgefield be penalized for having to go into Portland for work. This is a basically an unfair tax against commuters. No one should get penalized because of where their workplace is located, especially in this way.
Administration of tolls should be a fairly straightforward business, but errors here are far too common and too costly to drivers. For example, this year 65,000 drivers were overcharged for Seattle tunnel tolls. If you look at reports across the nation on the problems that comes with tolls, I can’t see why we would want to bring that to Southwest Washington. Look at, Texas, New York, Florida, Florida, and Florida.
Additionally, the contractors selected to administer tolls are often wealthy, well-connected business elites with deep ties and donor relationships to political elites. Former Florida Governor Rick Scott has very sketchy ties with Florida’s Sun Pass toll system contractor. Again, why would we want anything like that brought here?
Finally, I really appreciate John Ley’s fiery response here. He and I don’t seem to agree on social issues, but at least in sentiment, I’ll join him in opposition to the tolls that Senator Rivers wants to bring to Southwest Washington.