SEATTLE -- The Washington Legislature has adjourned after deferring action on a per-container fee designed to fund transportation infrastructure improvements across the state.
But lawmakers did move forward on another funding measure for freight that will establish a framework for the use of tolls on state roads.
In January, 2007, legislators considered a tax of $50 per TEU on containers moving through the state's ports, which would have had the greatest impact on the two top Puget Sound container ports, Seattle and Tacoma.
Most of the money collected under the state plan would have gone into a "freight congestion relief account" to improve rail freight systems and state highways that are used as freight corridors. The tax would have raised an estimated $287 million for unspecified freight projects over 2007-08, and an estimated $433 million for 2009-11.
Port and industry interests lobbied intensely against the measure, eventually turning the tax proposal into a container tax-freight mobility funding study. That study has been delayed, forcing the Legislature to move further consideration of potential container fees into the 2009 session.
The tolling legislation, which was supported by the region's ports, adopted recommendations in a 2006 tolling study by the Washington Transportation Commission.
The measure does not impose specific tolls but gives the Legislature authority to set tolls on state highways. It requires that funds collected from tolls be used only to "improve, preserve, maintain, manage or operate" the tolled highways involved. Also the state transportation commission must approve toll rates imposed by other entities, such as ports, on non-state highways.