Sheldon bill would block Seattle tolling plan, keep driving affordable

OLYMPIA – State Sen. Tim Sheldon has introduced legislation to block Seattle’s plan to impose tolls on downtown streets, calling the city’s war on the automobile an elitist threat to the entire state.

Sheldon’s SB 5104, introduced Tuesday, would prohibit cities, counties and other local governments from imposing tolls, and would establish that tolls can only be imposed by the Legislature.

“At last we can see Seattle’s war on the automobile for the anti-democratic effort it really is,” Sheldon said. “Do we really want a society where only the rich can afford to drive?”

Seattle is embarking on a million-dollar study of “congestion pricing” – a plan to discourage driving by imposing tolls on downtown streets. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has said she hopes to impose the tolling scheme by 2021. No American city currently imposes such tolls.

“Tolling might not be a problem if you’re the sort of person who can afford a Tesla,” Sheldon said. “But what about the rest of us? We are the riff-raff Seattle wants to keep out.

“In Seattle you have the working poor who will have to choose between a crosstown trip and dinner. In the suburbs you have the people who commute to work every day. None of them have a say, because they don’t vote in Seattle city council elections. And people who live in rural districts like mine will be clobbered. We drive long distances because we have to. We still have to go to Seattle for medical appointments, educational opportunities, or just to do business, and the bus won’t do the trick.

“Our road network serves all of us. We pay the same road taxes and sit through the same traffic jams. Everyone has the same freedom of mobility. But when Seattle starts charging a $15 or $20 admission fee at the city gate, you’re going to see a real difference between the haves and have-nots. If that’s not class warfare, I don’t know what is.”