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Washington Lawmakers Consider Blocking Local Tolls, Allowing Lane Splitting
Washington state bills would block a rural congestion tax and local tolls, allow lane splitting. Utah lane filtering bill goes to governor.

Tim Sheldon
Cities, counties and other local government agencies would be barred from imposing pay-per-mile charges and other tolls on motorists under legislation making its way through the Washington legislature. The state Senate Transportation Committee last month voted 9 to 5 to approve a bill repealing existing authorities that allow transportation business districts to toll bridges and other roads passing through their jurisdiction. If approved, the plan introduced by Senator Tim Sheldon (D-Hoodsport) would reserve all tolling authority to the state government and the port authorities currently setting up toll bridges over the Columbia River.

"The state legislature should have authority and jurisdiction for tolling," Sheldon explained during a committee hearing on his bill. "It concerns mostly Seattle at this point, but [tolling] could flourish in other cities without this bill. This is about the low-income people who need to get into the city."

Seattle specifically wants to add tolls to raise revenue for various local projects. Sheldon also put forward a companion bill would ban the collection of a per-mile tax or road user charge in any rural county. Sheldon argued the proposal is necessary because rural motorists must necessarily drive farther than city dwellers, and a per-mile tax would impose a greater burden on rural constituents.

Another Sheldon proposal would allow motorcycles to pass slow-moving or stopped traffic by riding between the left-hand median and the slow-moving cars. This maneuver is a slightly more restrictive form of lane splitting that is legal in California and most of Europe.

"I think this is an innovative way to address congestion," Sheldon said. "This is lane sharing. Sharing is caring. As a Democrat, FDR would sign this. JFK would sign this. Harry Truman would sign this, and even President Obama would sign this to move this forward."

The idea is hardly partisan, as the Republican-dominated Utah legislature on Tuesday sent lane-splitting legislation to Governor Gary Herbert (R) for his signature. The bill received overwhelming support, clearing the state House with a 59 to 13 vote and the state Senate with a 23 to 3 vote.

"Lane filtering means, when operating a motorcycle... the act of overtaking and passing another vehicle that is stopped in the same direction of travel in the same lane," House Bill 149 states (view bill text in a 120k PDF).

Copies of Sheldon's bills are available in a 400k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bills 5104, 5255, 5254 (Washington Legislature, 3/5/2019)

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