Kudos to Councilman Mike Cero for trying to get the rest of the Mercer Island City Council to take a No Tolls on I-90--PERIOD stand. The watered down "no tolls to/from Mercer Island" that the rest of the council voted for was disappointing---and confusing. I can understand Mike voting against it, since it implies that the Council has no objection to tolling of I-90.
Today, at a luncheon hosted by the MI Chamber of Commerce, Mike again shone. He pointed out that the $1.4 billion shortfall on 520 is for the section on the west bank from I-5 thru Montlake. Although there currently are tolls on 520, they are only on the bridge (the part over the water). Anyone driving from I-5 onto 520 who exits at Montlake will not have to pay the toll. There are no future tolls planned for the I-5 to Montlake area, where the shortfall is, so the people who use this bit of highway will not have to pay for it. Instead, users of federal Interstate 90 will be tolled for 30 or more years to pay for this section of a state road.
The speaker at the luncheon, John White (WSDOT I-90 Project Director), surprised me when he said that the state actually does have the money to finish the 520 project, but that it would mainly mean not being able to expand the above mentioned (I-5 to west bank section) to 6 lanes. Instead it would have to remain at 4 lanes. When someone asked why they can't simply build what they have the money for, he complained that the state had spent 15 years designing this. A person next to me whispered, "Why do they need the extra lanes if they say the traffic is all going to I-90?"
For those of you who will be adversely affected, I strongly urge you to contact WSDOT (i90EAcomments@wsdot.wa.gov) before the public comment period expires on Feb. 22nd.
Tolling of I-90 cannot happen without federal approval and the authorization of the Washington State Legislature, so contact your US Representative and Senators, along with your state legislators.