(1) The legislature finds funding of the Tacoma Narrows bridge facility to be distinct from other Washington state tolling facilities due to its increasing debt service costs, which is the primary driver of the facility's escalating costs. Washington state has since recommended and established financing structures with steadier levels of debt service payments for subsequent tolled transportation facilities, supporting better management of the state's debt burden and a lower financial burden for toll ratepayers.
(2) The Tacoma Narrows bridge facility debt service structure resulted, in part, from a decision by the legislature to fund construction of the bridge without drawing from state tax dollars. As a result, toll revenue was committed to fund 99 percent of bridge construction costs, as well as the associated interest payments and other associated debt service costs. This is not the standard more recently utilized by the legislature, as is the case of the state route 520 bridge's construction, 72 percent of which is to be paid for with toll revenues. In light of the maximum burden for bridge construction that was placed on Tacoma Narrows bridge toll ratepayers, there is no equitable reason that the burden of future debt service payment increases should be borne by these same toll ratepayers.
(3) The legislature established the Tacoma Narrows bridge work group in 2017 and tasked it with identifying opportunities for long-term toll payer relief from increasing toll rates on the Tacoma Narrows bridge. The work group recommended a request of up to $125,000,000 in state funding from the legislature to offset future debt service payment increases, allocated across the remaining years of tolling at levels that result in maintaining toll rates at fiscal year 2018 levels.
(4) Due to the findings aforementioned, an alternative is put forward by the legislature. State contribution loans for each fiscal biennium are to be made through the life of the debt service plan of up to a total of $85,000,000, and will be repaid in annual amounts beginning after the debt service and deferred sales tax are fully repaid. It is the intent of the legislature that the commission will adjust tolls accordingly, in consideration of annual contributions from nontoll sources and the costs required to be covered under RCW 47.46.100
, until such time as the debt service and deferred sales tax obligation is fully met according to the repayment schedule in place as of June 7, 2018, and until any state contribution loans are fully repaid.
(5) To offset part of the toll rate increases that would otherwise be necessary to meet increases in future debt service payments, it is the intent of the legislature that the state treasurer make state contribution loan transfers to the Tacoma Narrows toll bridge account created in RCW 47.56.165
on the first day of each fiscal biennium, beginning in the 2019-2021 fiscal biennium, through the life of the debt service plan. It is the intent of the legislature that the state treasurer make state contribution loan transfers in amounts necessary to ensure debt service payments are made in full after toll revenue from the Tacoma Narrows bridge toll facility is applied to the debt payment amounts and other required costs.
(6) This section does not create a private right of action.