Spin Control

Sunday spin: Name that bridge for (name that price)

OLYMPIA – Legislators are considering – not too seriously, it seems – a plan to allow the state to sell the naming rights to its many roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings and other facilities.

Should it pass, Spokane residents might at some future date drive east on the Avista Interstate, cross the Microsoft bridge over Lake Washington, take an exit onto the Starbucks Expressway, grab the REI exit ramp to the Nordstrom Terminal, then catch the Ivar’s Acres of Clams ferry boat for points west.

There’s no rate structure in the proposal which had a hearing last week in the Senate Transportation Committee, so how much the state might collect from such a scheme isn’t known. That was clearly a shortcoming, for sponsor Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, could only say the state ought to at least explore any chance to rake in some money that “we don’t have to take out of the taxpayers’ pockets.” Legislators respond better when more definite pots of money are dangled in front of them, such as the possible windfall from legalized pot.

The bill drew predictable harrumphs from purists who think the state ought not to besmirch its fine infrastructure. A member from Gig Harbor seemed leery about the prospect of renaming the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the Chuck E. Cheese bridge, although it’s not immediately clear if he’s spent too much time eating their pizza while screaming kids thrashing about in the pit of plastic balls or just thought it would be unseemly for the company to paint its giant cartoon rat on the structure.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with it if the Legislature can extract a decent rate, although naming structures for corporate entities can be a problem when a corporate change comes along. Just about the time one gets used to Seahawks Stadium being Qwest Field, it gets changed to CenturyLink Field, which requires a search for a catchy nickname like the Clink.

Besides, the state has a tendency to name its various structures and facilities already, but on a very narrow criteria and for no cash in hand. They are almost all named for politicians who are either dead, or at least so long retired that their former adversaries can’t put up a fuss when the naming resolution comes around. Don’t believe me? Get off I-90 on the Jimmy Keefe Bridge, take a left at the light and go down to Division, where if you turn right you will cross over the Sam C. Guess Bridge. Keefe, a Democrat, and Guess, a Republican, were both longtime legislators. Over here, the naming game is nothing if not bipartisan.




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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