And in Washington State: Anti-toll initiative heads to the ballot box

A citizen-sponsored initiative to restrict use of highway tolls, targeting both road and related transit projects, will be on the November ballot in Washington State.

The measure would restrict toll revenues to the facility on which they are collected; end tolling “after the cost of the project is paid”; require legislative approval of tolls; and forbid demand management via variable-priced tolling.

The campaign to place the initiative on the ballot was run by Tim Eyman, an anti-tax advocate and author more than a dozen previous initiatives, including a successful measure that requires supermajorities in the legislature to pass tax hikes. The anti-toll campaign has been bankrolled by wealthy developer/politician in Bellevue, who has long sought to halt plans to extend light rail to the area via a bridge also carrying I-90 and supported by tolls.

But the initiative would do more than torpedo a planned transit project; according to the Washington Office of Financial Management, the new rules would threaten many toll-funded major highway projects and halt WSDOT’s efforts to moderate demand with variable tolling.

So far the initiative has received almost uniformly bad press, with accusations that the initiative’s wealthy sponsor was “buying the election” or that the initiative – dubbed the “Protect gas-taxes and toll-revenues act” – “would completely screw up highway improvement plans that highway drivers are counting on, even though it’s being sold as something that has the best interests of highway drivers in mind.”

The election is Nov. 8.