Hearings Wednesday on Sheldon bills that take a whack at tolling

OLYMPIA – Hearings are set for Wednesday on two bills sponsored by Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, that aim to keep driving affordable for Washington’s 5.3 million motorists.

The measures target Seattle’s plan to impose tolls on downtown streets and road usage charges currently under study by the state Transportation Commission, which would penalize long-distance commuters and other drivers.

The bills will be heard Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. by the Senate Transportation Committee, Senate Hearing Room 1, John A. Cherberg Bldg at the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

“This isn’t just an issue for Seattle,” Sheldon said. “Our road network serves the entire state, and it belongs to the people of Washington. These efforts to artificially inflate the cost of driving and force people to take the bus are a major concern for rural districts like mine, because we have to travel longer distances and transit really isn’t an option. We might live out of town, but we still have to travel to the city for educational opportunities, medical appointments and everyday business. All of us deserve a voice.

“Making driving unaffordable would create enormous hardship for working families, especially those of lower incomes. It is hard to imagine a tax more regressive than this one. Washington’s taxpayers have already paid taxes to build the roads, and they shouldn’t have to pay again to use them.”

The two bills are:

SB 5104 – Prohibiting local governments from imposing tolls. The measure would eliminate local tolling authority, and prohibit cities, counties and port districts from imposing tolls.

SB 5255 – Prohibiting road usage charges in rural counties. The bill would apply to 30 of Washington’s 39 counties, and would prohibit road-usage charges, vehicle-miles-traveled fees, and similar charges, taxes or fees.