Letter: Kudos to Councilman Cero for I-90 Toll Stance

Joy Matsuura thanks Mercer Island Councilman Mike Cero for standing against potential tolling of Interstate 90.

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.

Joy Matsuura

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Peter Landsman February 08, 2013 at 11:27 PM
So you're suggesting that the state just leave 520 at 4 lanes from I-5 to Montlake even though the entire rest of 520 will be 6 lanes? That would be like reducing I-90 to 4 lanes for the Mt. Baker Tunnel. That's not going to fly. Does Mr. Cero support an increased gas tax to pay for these projects? Also I-90 is not a federal highway. Interstate highways are owned by the states, just like 520.
Claus Jensen February 09, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Peter, It is going to be a big surprise for most us to learn that "I-90 is not a federal highway"!
Peter Landsman February 09, 2013 at 01:18 AM
"The States own and operate the Interstate highways." Source: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/interstate/faq.htm#question5
Robert T. Brown February 09, 2013 at 01:19 AM
Peter's notion that SR 520 between I-5 and Montlake should be increased to 6 lanes from 4 lanes at the expense of those that use an entirely separate bridge contradicts his previous position supporting the Island Crest Way Road Diet, reducing much of the Island's main thoroughfare by 50% (and creating bicycle lanes conducive for traffic accidents.) He is also incorrect when he states "I-90 is not a federal highway". It in fact is, and is different from 520 because it is NOT a state route. Just because they look the same doesn't mean they are the same. On a different note, Council member Bruce Bassett unlawfully decreed no clapping or applause "because it could go either way". He must have poor judgement and manners to think that people would "boo" their neighbors. Of course, people did not regard his impromptu regulations. In addition, Council member Bruce Bassett attempted to restrict free speech and violate the First Amendment by saying that comments directed towards specific council members were prohibited. His habits to discourage two-way dialogue seriously jeopardizes his chances of being re-elected.
Peter Landsman February 09, 2013 at 01:31 AM
I did not say how it should be paid for, but the state is in the midst of building a 6-lane 520 bridge and it makes no sense to leave the last mile to I-5 four lanes. I think the legislature should raise the gas tax to pay for these projects and keep I-90 toll-free. Also there are no bicycle lanes on Island Crest Way. Just shoulders like most roads in most places have. And yes, WSDOT owns and operates I-90.
Thomas Imrich February 09, 2013 at 03:33 AM
We Mercer Island citizens and voters are being exceptionally well represented by our Council member Cero.
Claus Jensen February 09, 2013 at 03:34 AM
Peter, I was merely responding to your statement that I-90 "is not a federal highway". My one line reply did not address who "owns" I-90, but since you bring it up, I think we can agree that you and I and all other American taxpayers own the Interstate Highway System, since it has been paid for by OUR federal income taxes since 1956. And if WASDOT is the owner of the I-90 bridge, then why does WASDOT have to get approval from the USDOT to implement tolls on their own bridge? But rather than to distract from Joy Matsuuras Kudos to Councilman Mike Cero and his efforts on behalf of all Mercer Islanders, I suggest we agree to disagree, and focus on the No Toll on I-90 issue that is so important to all of us. Claus
Thomas Imrich February 09, 2013 at 03:35 AM
The last time I checked, the people of the United States of America owned I-90, from the east coast to the west coast.
David DSouza February 09, 2013 at 04:10 PM
http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/120xx/doc12043/01-19-highwayspending_brief.pdf The CBO provides a good overview of Federal Highway spending. In 2007, the public sector spent $146 billion to build, operate, and maintain highways in the United States. About three-quarters of that total was provided by state and local governments. One-quarter was provided by the federal government. Majority of federal funds come from gas taxes and they are not meeting the federal revenue needs much less the state revenue needs for maintaining the highways. The CBO argues for "congestion pricing", aka tolls, to meet the shortfall primarily because increasing the gas tax would be more difficult. This suggests unless the area beyond just mercer island is united on "no i-90 tolls", federal and state approval of tolls on i-90 would be fairly easy.
Jerry Goldberg February 09, 2013 at 07:30 PM
This issue of who owns I-90 is a distraction and irrelevant at this point. The state is clearly moving in a direction to tax MI residents for an ill conceived plan in building the new 520 bridge. The state spokesman that says we have to make the I-5 to Montlake section 6 lanes "because we have worked on that plan for 15 years" is just the kind of government employee moronic thinking that is responsible for every other ill planned, over budget, and under used transportation project over the last 25 years. Same morons, same results. If they had a plan they worked on for 15 years why didn't they include those costs in the bond issues and tax issues we all voted for in the first place. That is the way our state transportation dept. does everything: ask for most of the money but not all so the 'ask' isn't too high to get passed, and then formulate a secondary tax after the fact when there is so high of a sunk cost to the tax payers that they won't mind paying the rest to get the project done. Mike Cero is the only one I have sen or heard actually acting like he knows who his constituents are and that should be remembered next election.
Robert T. Brown February 09, 2013 at 08:36 PM
It is a good thing that the 2/3 supermajority initiative for legislative action was passed. According to RCW 47.56.031 "Approval of tolls.", "No tolls may be imposed on new or existing highways or bridges without specific legislative authorization, or upon a majority vote of the people within the boundaries of the unit of government empowered to impose tolls." Tolling I-90 would never pass a vote by the people of Washington. In addition, on WSDOT's website (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/), it states "State law requires revenue collected from tolls on the SR 520 and Tacoma Narrows bridges can only be used on those corridors." If that is true, than why would money from I-90 be collected and given to SR 520? WSDOT invented the "Cross-Lake Washington Corridor" to skirt these requirements, and is claiming that the 11% I-90 traffic increase on I-90 is "proof" of the corridor's existence. If I-90 did somehow become a tolled bridge, it would be just the beginning of WSDOT's regional "Master Plan" to create dozens of revenue streams. This map shows almost all of Puget Sound's highways under tolling consideration: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/ProgramMap.htm In addition, the MISD has a draft letter to endorse Councilmember Bassett's tolling scheme: http://www.mercerislandschools.org/cms/lib3/WA01001855/Centricity/Domain/769/Board%20Action%202%2014%2013.pdf
dave February 09, 2013 at 09:05 PM
I agree Jerry, it doesn't matter who owns I-90 and is only confusing to bystanders. People need to focus on comments by Judy Clibborn who's on record saying: "These tolls won't go away," Clibborn said. "They will then be used to maintain and operate the system." --- When you take $4-$5 billion out of the economy - this is after tax income --- people need to understand the consequences. For such a left leaning political city, the toll is one of the most regressive taxes in all of America. Mercer Island and East Side residents will adapt, but those who will ultimately suffer the most will be the middle and lower income families, who depend on jobs on both sides of the bridge. What politicians in Washington never have is a grand plan for the next 10, 20, 30 years...you're going to see price inflation, your going to see the East side aggressively poaching companies away from downtown Seattle, as it has a better school system. Mercer Island will see serious price inflation as the cost to employ service workers will go up, some businesses will be forced to close, especially if the majority of clients live off island... you'll see habits change in transportation, combined with Federal Law to boost gas mileage to 50 mpg + by 2025 - as the gas tax erodes further... what is next? when there's more shortfalls then what?? Olympia has no courage to even address the next step....
Publius February 09, 2013 at 10:16 PM
However, since the integration of the highway system, no additional tolling has been allowed (existing tolls have been grandfathered). The state must seek approval from the feds before tolling can happen. The fact that the state is looking to use an interstate facility to fund a state road is a dangerous precedent that will enable states to toll for taxes when they see fit. The corridor argument being pushed by the State is weak and doesn't reflect in the facts when you consider that traffic is bleeding off the 520 to more than I-90.
J.Matsuura February 11, 2013 at 02:27 AM
There is a slight error in my letter. The actual verbiage of the resolution is not "to/from Mercer Island", but "to AND from Mercer Island." In addition to the self-serving "Mercer Island only" nature of the clause, it conversely says that tolling to OR from Mercer Island is okay. This matters because if the state were to impose a toll in ONE direction (same as on the Tacoma Narrows bridge), either on traffic heading east OR heading west, it would be in compliance with the resolution set forth by the MI City Council. The Council, by trying to get very specific in its wording has basically said it's not opposed to one-way tolling on I-90.
Claus Jensen February 11, 2013 at 02:57 AM
I can not for the life of me understand why it seems so difficult for the majority of the City Council to pass a simple resolution to the effect of " THE MERCER ISLAND CITY COUNCIL - ON BEHALF OF THE CITIZENS OF MERCER ISLAND - IS AGAINST ANY TOLLS BEING IMPOSED ON I-90". What is it I don't understand? We are not talking about writing the Constitution here...
Claus Jensen February 11, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Venice Buhain February 11, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Thanks for that clarification, J.Matsuura.
Jean Dunbabin February 14, 2013 at 10:55 PM
People need to focus on comments by Judy Clibborn who's on record saying: "These tolls won't go away," Clibborn said. "They will then be used to maintain and operate the system." --- When you take $4-$5 billion out of the economy - this is after tax income --- people need to understand the consequences when they vote for a Judy Clibborn. The obvious thing is to make certain that in the next ellection JUDY CLIBBORN goes away. Meanwhile we need to get behind Councilman Mike Cero in his fight to stop ALL tolling.
snoozingdog February 20, 2013 at 12:56 AM
When did you last ride a ferry boat to the "other side"? When was the last time you fueled up your car? Each time you fill up your car, you are subsidizing the ferry system, a part of our DOT system no matter where you live in Western Washington. Each time you fill up your car, you are subsidizing Metro, part of our County public transportation (a sensible endeavor). However, we're talking about paying for a bridge not about ridership or about the environment. Bigger roads means more traffic anyway. So it seems (I don't like it) that the state should be raising the tax on fuel to subsidize the SR520 bridge. OR, perhaps, the users of the ferry system or Metro should pay their fair share for the convenience or need for a ferry or bus system rather than target and penalize residents of MI because the residents have no other option. Besides, many of us are NOT what people think, wealthy.
Richard Walther March 08, 2013 at 11:10 AM
Hello, We are Democracy Workshop, and have written Washington State Initiative I-1285 to "Prohibit Tolling on Interstate Highways" For our campaign to be successful, it will require a solid and organized effort, not to mention it will particularly require sufficient funds to pay for the cost of gathering at least 350,000 signatures statewide in order for it to qualify for the ballot. Conservatively it will take over $750,000 to accomplish this. Contributions can be made through our website where you can choose either PayPal, mail-in check, or credit/debit card transaction. Please Click Here to Contribute http://www.democracyworkshop.com/index_files/ContributionsPortal.htm "Like" us on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Democracy-Workshop/152713128216273 Website http://www.democracyworkshop.com/index.htm Thank you, we appreciate your support!!
Thomas Imrich March 08, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Federal highway policies and provisions apply to designated US Interstate highways. That is why the US DOT has the authority to DISAPPROVE any WA State WSDOT or Legislature tolling proposal on I-90 bridges, which they should readily do, to protect the integrity of the entire US Interstate Highway system.


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