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Who’s in favor of I-90 tolls? Hardly anyone

I90

Courtesy WSDOT

BELLEVUE — It’s a controversial issue that could affect tens of thousands of people.  State officials are examining the possibility of charging tolls on the I-90 bridge between Seattle and Bellevue.

On Thursday, the Washington State Department of Transportation kicked off the second phase of public meetings so drivers could voice concerns. Many on the Eastside are so against the tolls that they are hoping for funding alternatives, such as raising the state’s gas tax.

In Mercer Island, the anti-toll signs are as prominent as campaign signs.

It’s hard to find drivers in that zip code who are not furious about the idea to toll I-90.

“If you are on Mercer Island and you are going anywhere, you have to pay the toll,” said resident Cate Foster.

The opinions flowed in during phase one of WSDOT’s environmental impact study earlier this year.

The agency received 3,400 comments, many  offering alternatives to tolling.

“We have some local option taxes, sales tax, carbon tax, other things of that nature,” said WSDOT’s Craig Stone.

But the most realistic alternative to a toll is the gas tax. Raising it by three or four cents statewide could generate the $1.4 billion needed to help pay off the 520 Bridge project.

“Tolling on that bridge will hit me harder personally than the three-cent gas tax,” said Bellevue resident Michael Pierce.

Pierce added that, to him, a gas tax is the lesser of two evils. But he is convinced the state is on a one-way track to tolling.

“I think they are looking at options, but I don’t think not tolling is an option,” said Pierce.

WSDOT says they are looking beyond the traditional toll. Certain sections from Bellevue to Seattle would require less toll money.

They are even thinking of giving Mercer Island residents a free pass, at least in one direction.

“I am glad they are exploring the option of the discount; it’s an island, you have no other option,” said Foster.

Another option that was brought up at the public meeting on Thursday is to put the issue on a ballot.

“I think that would be a great answer to the controversy about tolling,” said Bellevue resident Joe Lamonte.

I-90 is currently tolled in seven different locations across the United States from Illinois to Massachusetts. If Washington lawmakers vote in favor of tolls, the charges could go into effect by 2016.

The next meeting will be Oct. 21 at Mercer Island High School Commons from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The third meeting is on Oct. 23 at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle from 4 p.m. to 7p.m.

4 comments

  • Belle

    Just like the Tacoma narrows. If you use it you pay for it. Unfortunately we wee told that the toll would come off once the bridge was payed for…never did and they just upped the tolls. But why should I have to pay a state gas hike for a bridge I dont use? Fair is fair, live with it if you use it like we do over here!

  • guest

    I-90 should not be tolled to pay for 520! leave the toll on 520 until it is paid for, same as last time! where is the problem with that? might have to keep tolls longer if you spend too much! let those using it pay for it.

  • Cascadia Bryan

    I cringe when people on Mercer Island say they will not be able to get off the island without a toll. They have two bridges, and the "toll booth" will be on either the floating bridge or on the East Channel Bridge, but not on both.

    I'm not a fan of tolls, but if one is going to be imposed on I-90, the residents of Mercer Island will be no more "stranded" that the residents of Medina are stranded. In either case, they can go West and pay a toll, or go East and not pay a toll.

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