Toll could make BCC commute too costly

By Elizabeth Ballinger.
The bill proposed in the state legislature last Thursday to allow one-way tolling of up to $3.25 on the Highway 520 bridge would put a weighty burden on BCC’s community, according to the college’s administration.
For the approximately 2,400 students living west of Lake Washington, tolls on the 520 bridge could add $200-$300 per quarter to education costs.
“I tried to inform our peers at the Student Budget Cut Forum,” said Amanda Alva, Associated Student Government (ASG) president, “that tolling of the bridge was very likely to happen, and [to] anticipate an added cost to going to school if you cross 520.”
Alva and the ASG Legislative Committee will be speaking with the state legislature this week, and plan on communicating concern over the impact tolls will have on already hard-pressed students during bad economic times.
The toll is scheduled to begin next January, and is hoped by lawmakers to raise about $1.2 billion toward rebuilding the bridge, giving the state a total of $2.6 billion to reconstruct the bridge. The timeline for the project has yet to be finalized.
The bridge was built in the early 1960s, and engineers have said in the last year that in case of a storm or earthquake, it could crumble. The city has also announced plans to opt for rebuilding the Alaskan Way Viaduct through Seattle’s waterfront with an inland deep-bored tunnel, one of many options considered in the last few years.
The state has yet to officially propose tolling on the Interstate Highway 90 bridge, although the federal government announced last week its permission for Washington to do so.
“All the trips will start to disappear off Highway 520 and will go to I-90,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle to the Seattle Times last week. The toll, he said, would only be effective if it was imposed on both bridges.
Twenty-eight percent of BCC employees use the I-90 bridge daily to commute to the campus, according to a study done by the college last year. Tolls on both bridges would add an estimated $1,000 to $2,400 annually to transportation costs for faculty.
“[The] toll would have an immediate and alarmingly negative effect on the education of a large number of current and potential BCC students,” stated the report, which was compiled by the president’s staff.
Low-income students, the report found, presumably charged the same as wealthier commuters, would be disproportionately hurt by tolls on either or both bridges.
“Increased commuting costs,” the report concluded, “would freeze many of these students out of higher education altogether.”