HR Bridge toll hike hearings begin Tuesday

The first in a pair of hearings concerning a proposed bridge toll increase at the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge kicks off Tuesday.

Port of Hood River leaders have slated for a toll hike, taking effect Feb. 1, 2018. Via their proposal, cash tolls for passenger vehicles will double from $1 to $2 per crossing, while electronic “BreezeBy” rates will nudge up from 80 cents to a dollar.

Members of the public can weigh in about the toll proposal at the port’s regularly scheduled port commission meeting 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the port conference room, 1000 E. Port Marina Drive in Hood River.

Following a brief presentation by staff, commissioners will hear public comment, with each speaker offered five minutes of podium time.

This summer, the port accounted for the toll increase in its fiscal year 2017-2018 budget. But adopting the plan requires separate action by the elected port commission.

The proposal sets in place tiered rates, in which customers of the port’s electronic tolling system, “BreezeBy,” get a discount over cash toll rates.

New proposed cash

toll rates:

Passenger vehicles and pickup trucks: $2

Large trucks, RVs, trailers, busses, per axle: $3

Motorcycles: $1

Proposed BreezeBy electronic rates:

Passenger vehicles and pickup trucks: $1

Large trucks, RVs, trailers, busses, per axle: $2

Motorcycles: 75 cents

If the pending concept reaches fruition, it will mark the first time passenger vehicle cash tolls have cost more than $1 on the bridge.

The proposal comes amid cost challenges tied to the aging steel bridge, which the port has owned and managed since 1950.

The last major toll cash toll increase was in 2012, when the rate went up from 75 cents to $1. In 2015, the electronic tolling rate lifted by 5 cents.

Staff recommended in a provision that net revenue coming from the toll increase go solely toward the port’s Bridge Repair and Replacement Fund.

Port capital expenditures are expected to ramp up sharply over the next several years, with the port’s 30-year work plan anticipating $51 million in expenditures by 2032.

A similar situation has unfolded at the Bridge of the Gods. The Port of Cascade Locks in 2016 increased the rate per crossing from $1 to $2 for non-Gorge residents; however, a local sticker program proving residency in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area allows for a discounted $1 rate.

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