More growth, tolls expected in coming year

January 1, 2014 

Goodbye, 2013. Hello, 2014. We hope you’re as kind to Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula as the past 12 months.

While it hasn’t all been rosy — sad news has broken in our area in the past few weeks that has included a house fire that claimed two lives and a separate stabbing incident that left one dead — we’ve continued to see an overall upward trend in our area, both in terms of economic growth and happiness.

There are many reasons to be optimistic as we break open a fresh set of calendars. But first, here’s a quick look at how we fared on our predictions for the past year:

 • We predicted another toll increase on the eastbound span of the Narrows bridges. Shocking, we know.

And we were right. As of July 1, the toll rate bumped up to $4.25 for those who use a Good to Go! pass, $5.25 for those who pay wish cash at a toll booth, or $6.25 for the pay-by-mail option.

It wasn’t that bold of a prediction, since discussions had been in the works for several weeks before the new year. And, in fact, the state Transportation Commission anticipates there will be another small increase this summer.

It’s all in an effort to pay construction bonds, which were sold in anticipation of area population growth. Payments were always expected to increase, with less-expensive rates in the early stages and more expensive later on. So far, that growth — and, therefore, the traffic count across the span — has been minimal, and even though lawmakers and state officials have attempted to keep the impact on peninsula residents at a minimum, it’s still been a pain on our pocketbooks.

 • We predicted continued economic development. Check. Construction is abound, and recreation and tourism opportunities — think the newly re-opened Donkey Creek Park — are making Gig Harbor an even more desirable place to live.

 • We talked about the city’s downtown “Vision Statement,” which focused on important aspects to residents and stakeholders. While we thought the city would have relative ease in regard to how it implemented those plans, there was a dust-up this fall as the city revised its rules on downtown building heights. That battle may not be over.

 • We went out on a limb to predict the Seattle Seahawks would return to the Super Bowl. But the Atlanta Falcons derailed those plans last January, and it led to one of the most anticipated seasons this year.

For 2014, here are a few things we think could happen:

 • Gig Harbor Mayor Jill Guernsey will step in and pick up where Chuck Hunter left off. It’s a bit ironic, but perhaps fitting, that Hunter, a former contractor, led the city through eight years of substantial growth, from infrastructure to parks. Now the city is feeling pressure on certain land uses, and that’s Guernsey’s strong suit. She’s worked in the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s office with a specialty in land use for several years, and now it’s her time to shine.

 • After the Peninsula School District redraws its intra-district boundaries to relieve some overcrowding at the elementary level, it will put another revenue package on the ballot. A new school is still something the PSD needs, even though voters turned down a $50 capital bond this past November. This time, the school board will give the public more notice, and, if the revenue package is sized appropriately, voters will approve it.

 • Among other issues, state lawmakers will continue to look for a solution for tolls on the Narrows bridges, but they won’t be able to come to an agreement, and we’ll see toll rates up another quarter on July 1 — $4.50 for electronic payment, $5.50 for cash, $6.50 for pay-by-mail.

 • If you’re as excited about the Seattle Seahawks’ prospects as we are, it’s hard not to say to road to Super Bowl XLVIII goes through CenturyLink Field. We think the Seahawks will win the NFC championship and beat Denver at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to raise their first Lombardi Trophy.

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