I recently received notice I-90 travel surveys were due to be returned to the Washington State Department of Transportation by Tuesday, November 26. The survey results will help “inform WSDOT study of the potential effects of different I-90 tolling options between Seattle and Bellevue could have on Mercer Island”.
All this is part of a WSDOT “comprehensive environmental review of tolling Interstate 90 between I-5 and I-405 to manage traffic and provide funding for construction of the unfunded SR 520 Program from I-5 to Medina”. The WSDOT is apparently receiving $8.32 million of federal and state funding for the environmental review. It’s not clear what Mercer Island has spent on their “No-Tolls-On I-90” effort.
All of this seems rather bizarre. The fundamental problem is the 15,000 vehicles a day added to I-90 traffic since 520 tolling began have increased congestion there and reduced 520 tolling revenue. Obviously one way to alleviate both problems is to add tolls to I-90. They would provide added revenue, eliminate the incentive for those avoiding tolls to use I-90, and also encourage all I-90 commuters to car pool. It doesn’t take millions of dollars and months of study to reach that conclusion.
A far better way to deal with the I-90 congestion and 520 funding is for Mercer Island to use the permitting process to stop East Link. The fact that Sound Transit has blatantly lied for years about the “benefits” of light rail is surely ample legal ground for doing so. “Persuade” Sound Transit to use the $2.8 billion East Link funding to eliminate the need for tolling on either bridge. If they fail, not only will their commuters be faced with tolls, their easy commute into Seattle will change forever in 2016 when the I-90 Bridge center roadway is closed down for light rail.