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State agency gets an earful over I-90 tolling idea

i-90MERCER ISLAND — Opposition to placing tolls on the Interstate 90 bridge between Seattle and Bellevue was in clear evidence Tuesday night at the Washington State Department of Transportation’s first public meeting on the idea.

The meeting was held from 4-7 p.m. at the Mercer Island Community Center. WSDOT said state lawmakers have asked the agency to study the environmental, financial and other impacts of tolling I-90.

More than 100 people packed the community center to try to voice their opposition and their anger.

They came with signs, petitions and even cash to help finance a grass-roots movement against the proposal.

“I live on Mercer Island. It is terribly unfair. There has got to be another way to fund the highway system,” said Beth Brenner.

Tolling on I-90 would raise more than $1 billion. But many of the Mercer Island residents at the meeting expressed disbelief that tolling would even be considered on the span.  Many were also angry at how Tuesday night’s event was set up; people thought they would be able to voice their concerns, but instead they were asked to write down their comments.

Many residents, like Terry Coe, were expecting an open mic forum. Coe said it was a violation of his First Amendment rights. He pulled down from one wall a paper WSDOT sign asking people not to distribute materials at the event.

“It’s offensive,” said Coe.

And many told WSDOT exactly how they felt during a limited question and answer session.

“The whole system was no toll, but bit by bit by bit you lied to the population,” yelled one man.

Another, Mercer Island resident Fred Weiss, said that “95 percent thinks it should not be tolled. We’ve been told for the last 40 years it wouldn’t be tolled.”

“It sounds like we need to get to our legislators now, and it is not too early,” said one woman.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh Mercer Island, there is a lot of wealth there.’ But there is a lot of retired people here; look in this room,” said resident Marilyn Wellnatz.

“I’m really upset; I am ready to march,” said Brenner.

A grass-roots movement is in full swing against any attempt to place tolls on the Interstate 90 bridge between Seattle and Bellevue.  It is called No Toll on I-90.

“Clearly there are effects on the economy, and so I appreciate the concerns; that is why we are going through the process,” said WSDOT official Craig Stone.

Additional public meetings will be held at Bellevue City Hall Jan. 30 from 4-7 p.m. and at the Yesler Community Center in Seattle on Jan. 31 from 4-7 p.m.

There is also an online open house for public comment. Click here to comment on I-90 tolling.

WSDOT will turn in its final report by end of this year in time for the Legislature to consider in 2014. If approved by lawmakers, tolling on I-90 could begin as early as late 2015.

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18 comments

  • kim

    No tolling I-90. I just won’t go to Seattle anymore. Bellevue has everything we “need”. Nice way to cut off a community. Thanks.

  • Linda

    Am I the only one who remembers the promise of wash. Government, that if we voted in lotto the proceds would go to schools and highway ? We were promised there would be no more school levies or highway taxes if lotto was voted in!! So were is all that money going ??? It sure isn't going for what we were told it would be used for now is it,!!!

  • offthelows

    well, there's the public sector unions/pensions they have to pay, as well as the (mostly fraudulent) people on disability, so they have to find sources of revenue somewhere.

  • guest

    most politicians are self-serving liars and thieves. until people start researching who they are voting for rather than whose commercials they like better we will continue to get taken.

  • Mark

    I live down in Rochester, WA and occasionally come to Seattle to do business. I am sure I am not the only one that if all those roads get tolls on them I will have to cut back on my trips there as just the price of gas alone is too much and I will be doing more on line business instead. I can see, like so many other great governmental plans like raising taxes, that it is going to chase customers away!

  • jared

    Thank you washington state for proving your ignorance once again, for punishing its residents for your lack of ability to budget. Why not toll the roads in olympia, or bremerton, or spokane, because that makes about as much sense as what you're attempting to do. you created this problem by your lack of ability to govern and poor decision making, stop punishing us for your inability to properly govern this state. -jared

  • Guest

    I live in West Seattle, and work in Bellevue. I make less than $40k a year, and this would mean I would either have to sell my house in West Seattle or find a new job that doesn't require me taking I-90.

    Everyone who thinks they can change the state government's mind on this is dreaming. They don't care, this is merely a formality to getting their toll put in place. They're looking at what they could earn, not whether or not it's going to hurt those who need to drive that route. If you think they care how this affects you, you're unfortunately very mistaken. They care about money, not you.

  • West Side

    So Mercer Islanders, who chose their community but the majority of whom use I90 to go to "medical, shopping, recreation, jobs" in Seattle and Eastside every single day, don't want to have to pay an I90 toll? The ones contributing hugely to freeway use? No, sorry. You get tolled like the rest of us. Or change your habits. Or move.

    My own family will pay the max amount, since we live in Seattle and work on the Eastside. The toll may be the much-needed prod we need to live and work in the same place (bye-bye Eastside). So our choice will be "change our habits" and we'll feel good about not wasting commute time as well as lessening our carbon footprint.

  • Guest

    Mercer Island Residents are essentially 'prisoners' to the system. We have no alternative but to take I90 to get off the island. Contrary to what many believe there are a lot of working families, and fixed incomes on Mercer Island. Additionally, how will clerks, teachers, and other employees who come to the island to work be able to afford to come to work? Let's toll everyone who leaves Queen Anne Hill or uses the Ballard Bridge. it's no different. Imagine if you had to pay extra every time you wanted to go to the movies, or your kids soccer game…it's unaffordable.

  • jim

    Bring on the tolls! That way you can kiss ALL the jobs in WA goodbye. You wonder why Boeing, et al are leaving? Get a clue! I-90 is paid for. There is a federal law forbiding tolls on paid for roads. Dump the politicians wages and we'll have that Billion dollars in no time!

  • William Gottfried

    Lotto, what a farce, tolling should be allowed, but on all freeways at lower rates, but fair. All our major roads need work, so do the workers, lets get the money back into the state.

  • Jacob

    This is what happens when citizens vote against the car-tab tax and state income tax which are progressive–you end up with regressive taxes like this.