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City Council I-90 Tolling LiveBlog

Approximately 100 citizens and representatives are at City Hall for City Council's Jan. 7 meeting on a presentation by WSDOT possible I-90 tolling between I-405 and I-5.

7 pm

Mayor Bruce Bassett opens the meeting and asks the over 100 peeople in City Council chamber

John Fox, speaking on behalf of his wife Anne, who lives across the street from the so-called First Hill lot, a city owned property that the city plans to sell (2976 74th Ave. SE).

He asks that the city consider the ecclectic nature of the neighborhood and place covenants on the property, to restrict it to only 2 houses on the property.

"A cul-de-sac design would change the idiosyncratic nature of the area," he said.

Carol Boatswain also makes similar comments following Mr. Fox.

7:10 pm

Ira Appelman speaks concerning the annual performance review of City Manager Rich Conrad. Appelman runs through a series of "injustices" of retaining Conrad.

7:12 pm

Mayor Bassett closes the public comment period. Minutes for past meetings are approved. The consent calendar is unanimously approved.

Deputy City Manager Noel Treat introduces AB 4792, I-90 Issues Status Report.

"We are just at the beginning of the process," said Craig Stone, WSDOT Toll Division Asst. Secretary.

7:23 pm

Stone moves through the rationale for imposing tolls on I-90 between I-405 and I-5, calling the SR 520 bridge and I-90 the "Lake Washington Cross-Lake Corridor"

"They clearly have interaction with each other," Stone said.

The 520 floating bridge replacement remains unfunded by about $1.4 billion.

Tolling on 520 after a few initial hiccups, Stone says, is "working" and about 3 million toll transactions are processed a month. The state is now looking at how to harmonize the tolling program across all toll roads and bridges in the state.

7:28 pm

Stone says travel times have increased on I-90 by 11 percent (15,000) since tolls were introduced to SR 520, adding an estimated 4 minutes of travel time to the Issaquah-to-Seattle commute. Growth in traffic on westbound I-90 has been primarily in mid-day traffic.

"We have clearly seen most of the trip increases have come in the middle of the day," Stone said. Average traffic times on westbound I-90 between Issaquah and Seattle before tolling could take anywhere between "free-flow" speed and 45-to-49 minutes between 5 to 6 pm. After tolling, the slowdowns would take place earlier and last longer.

7:34 pm

An environmental assessment will look into a number of areas, and Stone reminds the audience of the three public scoping meetings scheduled for Mercer Island on Jan. 29, Bellevue on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 in Seattle.

7:37 pm

Stone closes with a review of six WSDOT facilities authorized by the State Legislature and three other faciliites that are being studied, including the I-90 crosslake corridor.

7:38 pm

Russ East, WSDOT Asst. Regional Manager begins his presentation on the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project, which is now moving into Stage 3: East says this will enable the placement of EastLink on the center roadway, or I-90 Express lanes.

The changes on Mercer Island will be the Island Crest Way onramp to the center roadway will be closed, and the Bellevue Way on and off ramp will be modified.

"We really want people to understand the elements being considered here, the elements that go into tolling," Stone said.

East says Stage 3 should be complete by Sept. 2016, when the I-90 express lanes would then be closed to traffic.

"By Sept. 2016 we open the road to construction to Sound Transit and they place."

Councilman Mike Cero asks for the presentation to pause and requests the opportunity to ask a question.

Cero challenges the benefit that the community will derive from the change and asks if there will be 5 general purpose lanes each way available to the public.

"You're going to be looking at two empty center lanes for 7, 8 years?" asks Cero.

"That's correct." East said.

"Will the SOV lane remain?" asks Cero.

"That decision, that policy decision, has not been made," said East.

Cero goes on to ask if the SOV access that Mercer Island residents enjoy will become "Hot-Lane" HOV access.

"That is very important for the public to understand," Cero said.

7:53 pm

East also describes that the Homer Hadley floating bridge shoulder will be virtually eliminated (down to 2 feet) and lanes will be reduced from 12 feet to 11 fett in width.

"When there's a car break down, there will be congestion," East said.

7:57 pm

Sound Transit East Link Executive Project Director Ron Lewis presents information on the EastLink project to link Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond to Seattle via the I-90 center lanes. Hewitt Archtiects will be designing the Mercer Island light rail station and the link is divided into two projects. The track alignment, station finishes and materials and landscaping is now being selected and permitting will soon begin.

Sound Trasit says they will soon begin outreach on how the station should be designed and what art should be placed there. The station will be accessed from 77th Ave. SE and 80th Ave. SE and stairs and elevators will be available at each access point. Ticket machines will also be placed at the street level.

Sound Transit will also work with the city on traffic mitigation and helping to build another parking facility on the Island.

8:06 pm

Service on the East Link light rail line is projected to begin in 2023. Civil construction is projected to begin in 2015 and end in 2020, and systems construction will finish in 2021, and then a year of testing will begin.

In Sept. 2016, the I-90 express lanes will be available for construction. Sound Transit is projecting 54 months of construction for the entire I-90 segment. Sound Transit says the Bellevue segment is the "critical path".

Deputy Mayor Grausz reiterates Cero's question with a little more relish.

"Why does it take seven years for construction on I-90 center lanes?" asks Grausz. "We keep asking that question and we never get an answer."

The Sound Transit representative says he'd be happy to go into more detail at another time to explain why the project will take seven years when he can return with a more detailed presentation.

"We want to deliver it in the most cost-effective way," Ron Lewis said. "But we also want to deliver it in away where it has the least impact on the community.

Schedule will be baselined in 2014. The final timeline is not set.

8:21 pm

Mercer Island's legislative delegation is here as well. State House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn goes first.

Clibborn reviews some of the history for how and why the State Legislature is now considering tolling I-90. State Route 520 would first be paid for by tolls, then the state would look for more state and federal funding, and savings elsewhere.

"We have easied our way into tolling to complete a regional package," Clibborn said. "The reason we are going to toll is because we could not raise enough revenue."

Clibborn says that "it was decided" in 2009 that tolling I-90 would be used as a "backstop" for fully funding the SR 520 floating bridge replacement as the bond packages to pay for it were being sold to the bond market. But Islanders can determine how and where the toll gantries would be placed.

"You will always have a way to get off the Island for free" siad Clibborn. "I don't think the state has to decide that ... If you want to toll the East Channel Bridge, and charge all of those people who use the Park and Ride lot, that would be interesting."

"I think the Island is just about split. I am a little concerned about when we start. 2016 is the date that has been set and I'm going to hold firm on that."

8:31 pm

Sen. Steve Litzow is next, reviewing all of the transportation projects that the State Legislature is approving and must pay for.

"You cannot raise the gas tax fast enough to make up for the declining revenues," Litzow said. "We're playing catch-up in our ability to keep the freigh moving and keep our economy going."

8:33 pm

Rep. Marcie Maxwell, who lives in Renton, says she understands the impact these decisions will have on Mercer Island and the region as a whole.

"East King County has enjoyed good times when compared with the rest of the county, the region and the country as a whole," she said. "And transportation is a big part of that."

Maxwell compliments Rep. Clibborn's leadership and said that it puts Mercer Island in a strong position moving forward.

The Council takes a short break.

7:47 pm

Mayor Bassett resumes the meeting, with a few comments on the ground rules of how to take part in the meeting.

"We as a council intend to be representative of you ... but now is your opportunity to speak to them."

Baron Dickey goes first. Dickey says the I-90 bridge is Mercer Island's only access route, affect the Port of Seattle, hinder Mercer Island businesses and cause additional burdens on the state. 

Lisa Belden organized a petition with over 3,300 signatures so far of residents on Mercer Island. She criticized elected officials and directed several of her comments toward Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn — who was sitting in the audience — for failing to make good on "promises" she said were made in public forums and in newspaper stories.

"She said 'I'l make sure that SOV lanes stay if light rail comes'," Belden said, quoting Clibborn from a Seattle Times story. "This whole thing, the way this really came up was through lots of lies from Sound Transit and WSDOT," she said.

Her time alloted to speak — three minutes — now expired, Belden won't yield the podium.

"This our chance to speak," she said. "We don't have to stand for this, people."

Mercer Island Police Chief Ed Holmes escorts Belden from the podium.

Stowe Sprague reviews how this would personally affect her and her family. She estimated that her family makes 23 trips a week off the Island, and 20 of her trips went to Bellevue. She estimated it would cost her about $92 a week and nearly $5,000 per year."

I would love to see more families write up their own profile and send them to Judy."

Sprague advocates a residential cap and splitting the tolls between two toll gantries.

John Hamlin says he objects to the level of surveilance that a toll would bring to Mercer Island.

"Mercer Island residents do not want to submit themselves to an involuntary search everytime they leave the Island."

9:06 pm

Joy Matsuura said she dislikes the toll and the Sound Transit's handling of the Park and Ride system. She also objects to tolling because it will hurt residents locally and regionally.

Steve Shepherd, who said he used to live in Seattle, urged residents to raise their voices to affect the scoping of the tolling project.

"Represent us more forcefully, this is going to be crucial," he said.

Tom Imrich said Islanders are being asked an unfare share if they're asked to pay tolling on I-90

John Emeritt, asks a rhetorical question of the WSDOT and Sound Transit representatives and criticizes the elected representatives and officials.

Suzanne Davis said she was very disappointed that the representatives from WSDOT and Sound Transit will not

"The measure does not call for tolling I-90" Davis said, quoting Clibborn.

Davis said that tolling on I-90 would pay for 520

John Sievekin said he moved to Mercer Island for the community, but feared that tolling would have a heavy impact on local businesses, starting with his child's day care.

"This is not something that should happen to Mercer Island," he said. "It's vitally important to have that commerce and vitality brought to Mercer Island ... where does it stop?"

Michael Finn: A new twist on what tolling uis going to do. Volunteering, charity, food and clothing donations by Islanders may be severely curtailed as a result.

Claus Jensen: The idea of spending $5,000 per year on a fixed income is a nightmare. It's an interstate highway that's being tolled for a state highway.

Denise Joffe: Resident since 2006. I can honestly say that if I was considering moving here at a time tolling was considered ... I honestly wouldn't consider moving here."

Larry McWilliams: "I don't know if you can say no. If you told them to stick it in their ear, I don't know what it would do."

Fred Weiss: We've paid for I-90 twice.

Steve Marshall: People are looking for a choice. Lake Washington urban partnership agreement. The biggest reason they're talking about this is revenue. PSRC is talking about tolling in the whole region by 2040. We ought to be looking at the whole region.

"Maybe we should look at RTID again (a transportation bond which failed in a 2007 vote)," he said. "But looking at Mercer Island, and asking families to pay $5,000 a year, just doesn't make a lot of sense."

Joe Murphy: A resident at 77 Central, Murphy saw the hearing on MI-TV 21 and threw on his suit and shirt and tie and drove to City Hall to speak during the meeting. He moved away from Gig Harbor to Mercer Island for work opportunities and is an Iraq War military veteran.

"Please don't charge me any more money, my rent is already pretty high."

Mayor Bassett thanks all members of the audience who spoke during the hearing.

"We hear you and these folks in the front row hear you and I'm sure we'll continue the conversation in the coming months," he said.

9:38 pm

Bertlin asks about why the state has decided to integrate a "user fee" into state transportation policy. Clibborn says it's because there's a scarcity of revenue and other states in the East have taken up this policy, and to Washington state residents it's "new."

Bertlin also asks what can be done to reduce the amount of time the center lanes would be closed.

Lewis says it's because of weather and sensitivity of construction on the bridge  that the length of time is seven years. Lewis says he can return in the spring to brief the council on a more detailed look at the timeline.

Senn asks if this is a done deal.

Clibborn: "I don't have another choice ... We are now at a point where the only other option is by tolling." "I think we need to look at it as how do we get the rest of the region working, too."

Grausz asks why the state never responded to a letter sent to WSDOT attesting to keeping Mercer Island's SOV/HOV access lanes.

Conrad weighs in: Mercer Island traffic would have access to HOV lanes when they open and would not be toll lanes, until the lanes could be turned into HOT lanes.

Stone responds and says he thinks Mercer Island access to HOV lanes is something that could be included in scoping of the study and moving forward.

Grausz also asked if Mercer Islanders could see a reduced toll rate.

"There's probably no other community in the state that has that distinction, that half the community might have to pay a toll and the other half won't," Grausz said.

Clibborn weighs in: "If you went to Gig Harbor when they were the first to be tolled, they felt the same way ... everytime we touch a community that has a unique place, we go through this process. That's why we don't do that ... I don't see how you do that politically."

Stone says Staten Island pays a different rate in New York City. He says WSDOT is looking at the Columbia River as a pilot.

Brahm: "For Mercer Island, this is a bitter pill," she said. It sounds like it is a done deal, so now the question is, what can we do to mitigate this?"

10:05 pm

WSDOT's East says there's a number of policy and cost decisions that are in place that put the state and Sound Transit on schedule to close the I-90 express lanes in 2016.

Conrad says there may be a period of time, from May 2016 to September 2016, when construction hasn't yet begun, but the R8A project will be finished — effectively leaving Mercer Island with three all-purpose lanes of traffic, an HOV lane and the express lanes.

East says there's an additional, unbudgeted cost to run the interstate in this configuration.

"Do you mean to tell me, there was never a plan to operate the R8A as five lanes?" asked Grausz.

East confirms there was no plan for this.

Stone clarifies that R8A is to turn the center lanes into high-capacity transit.

Clibborn says because the project timeline has slipped, a gap has appeared.

Cero asks why 520s capacity isn't being fully used, while I-90 will be tolled.

"It's part of a master plan to get funding," said Clibborn."(The toll) will not go up over a long period of time. It will at least stay flat"

10:20 pm

Mayor Bassett asked how long the I-90 tolls could be on place.

"These tolls won't go away," Clibborn said. "They will then be used to maintain and operate the system."

Bassett: You're looking for a lot of input on what to study for the coming months. It's up to us to present he ideas?

Stone: Yes, that would work best.

Bassett: Are there boundaries to what we propose?

Stone: Is it relevant to what we're trying to study, how do we go about doing this?

Mayor Bassett lays out his concept fot a tolling system that in his view would be a "win-win" for the state and for Mercer Island. He accepts the idea that I-90 is part of a cross-lake corridor and that tolling would be part of an effort to reduce travel times and maintain improvements on the SR 520 and I-90 bridges, but challenges the notion that Mercer Island residents must pay.

Bassett proposes two toll gantries on either side of the Island motorists who pass through both would then pay the toll.

"It would make cross-lake trips tolled trips, and wouldn't charge local residents and workers," he said. "This is an idea that's been floated ... and Mercer Island residents like it a lot."

Stone answers: We call it trip building. In fact I-405 will be tolled based on distance. We're also looking at doing something similar with SR 99/Alaskan Way.

This is a concept of operations. So the question is, how will we go about doing that? This is a three-step dance. We could study it as an alternative. But ultimately that concept would be a policy question. Who ultimately makes the decision? That would be the legislators and the State Tolling Commission.

Clibborn: We need to get the revenue.

Bassett: People say "Don't toll I-90". I'm looking for a "win-win," and this clearly does that.

Conrad: Is it legal to toll an interstate highway to pay for state roads?

Stone: There's a number of federal programs that allow this. This would be permitted under a "Value-Pricing Program." Is it legal to toll I-90 for a different facility, such as SR 520.

The Federal Highway Administration has said we can, but it was to be used for transportation purposes — but even then, we can shift the money, if necessary, to transportation related projects.

Clibborn: I don't think politically we would just take that tolling money and spend it on something else like transit.

Bertlin: I'm feeling sadness that a philanthropic effort that tolling could curtail that. The issue of privacy also concerns me. The burden seems very unfair. The issue of where the gantires are are very important. But this also hits other entities.

Senn: Focusing on Town Center, there are many concerned that are from off-Island and there's a worry they will seek to avoid the toll.

Clibborn: Light rail, you'll have more choices of how to get here and there.

Grausz: A lot of discussion imposing fees on the Park and Ride, based on distance. Is that going anywhere?

Ron Lewis: The board has taken up parking policy systemwide.

Brahm: We need to find out what bridge most people are using. Will you be tracking origin and desitnation?

Stone: Yes, we'll be tracking origin and destination.

Mayor Bruce Bassett thanks the  "Coming up with options that will be included in the study in the coming months," said Bassett. "There's power in number on this."

10:50 pm

Mayor Bassett adjourns the meeting.

Dan Kolton January 11, 2013 at 04:49 AM
We won a World War in less time that it will take to put a choo-choo across the lake.
Dan Kolton January 11, 2013 at 04:55 AM
On another note, I wander what studies have incorporated reduced traffic and trip due to Peak (Cheap) Oil in the future. Like the 520 model (that I believe is not meeting projections), in a PCO world of oil in excess of $150/bbl reduced trips will leave whatever budgeting is done on I-90 tolling int he red as well. But never fear the "improvers" who never saw a tax dollar they didn;t want to find a way to squeeze from the electorate will surely ignore anything that runs counter to their grand plans. Frankly, let;s just make tolling for MI residents a 'voluntary' affair, and see how many of those 50% of residents actually pony up. Anyone want to take bets that rate comes in somewhere close to zero?
Claus Jensen January 11, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Feds OK with I-90 tolls to help pay for new 520 bridge If politicians in Olympia decide to charge tolls on the Interstate 90 Floating Bridge to help replace the neighboring Highway 520 bridge, that's OK with the feds. By Mike Lindblom Seattle Times transportation reporter Related State report on bridge tolls (PDF) If politicians in Olympia decide to charge tolls on the Interstate 90 Floating Bridge to help replace the neighboring Highway 520 bridge, that's OK with the feds. The Federal Highway Administration has told the state Department of Transportation (DOT) that both bridges could charge tolls, in a letter released Wednesday. Tolls, charged for more than 30 years, would rise and fall based on the time of day, with the goals of encouraging transit and reducing congestion, if I-90 enters the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program. The state hopes to collect enough in tolls to fill a $2 billion funding gap for a new six-lane, $4 billion-plus Highway 520 crossing of Lake Washington. Drivers would pay electronically, much like most motorists now do to cross the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Current state law forbids tolling one highway to pay for another. The Legislature would have to change the law,
Jon H January 11, 2013 at 06:30 PM
I dislike the framing of this 'unfunded' portion is for the 'bridge'. That isn't true, it is the West shore to I-5 part that doesn't have the money. The bridge is already paid for via a combination of federal debt spending (grants and other forms of government fiscal wizardry), some cash flow and the promise of future toll revenue. The shore to I-5 part (per the presentation at the meeting the other day and first link below) is what remains and that work is pending funding. It should be discussed in this way to make it clear that we aren't going to see a 50% complete floating bridge. I'd argue that if Mercer Island residents and employees who work on Mercer Island are forced to pay for that remaining portion, we should have veto option on what design is approved. I really don't want to pay for tree-lined boulevards, art installations on top of a very expensive lid option. Or at least the portion of the roadway from the shore to I-5 is also subjected to an additional toll to help cover it's costs. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR520Bridge/I5ToMedina/Default.htm http://montlaker.com/2012/06/21/montlake-lid-reconnecting-a-divided-neighborhood-or-rh-thomson-revisited/
Ira B. Appelman January 13, 2013 at 04:21 AM
Siccing the police on a citizen for going over the arbitrary 3 minute time limit IS outrageous, and, I believe, violates state law. This is my 16th year going to EVERY council meeting (more than any of the councilmembers) and THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. In fact, NOTHING EVEN APPROXIMATING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED BEFORE. Generally, the mayor just continues to gently request that the speaker wrap up, and the speaker eventually does. RCW 35A.13.120 prohibits councilmembers from ordering staff like the police chief to do anything: "(N)either the council nor any committee or member thereof shall give orders to any subordinate of the city manager, either publicly or privately." In our weak mayor plan of government, the mayor is merely a councilmember chosen by other councilmembers to run the council meeting. The council controls the city by controlling the city manager; individual councilmembers and the council collectively have no authority to order staff to do anything.
Kendall Watson January 13, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Ira makes a great point in that it was highly unusual. I'm not certain the mayor had the authority to order MIPD Chief Holmes to do that, which is why — after Mayor Bassett asked for Mrs. Belden's removal — walked directly over to the city attorney, who gave him some sort of advice out of earshot. Clearly, Mrs. Belden was not following the established time-limit for speaking, disrupting the regular order of the meeting. But as presiding officer of the city council meeting, the mayor has discretion under the law to maintain order — according to recent case law in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. see this MSRC discussion: http://www.mrsc.org/focus/ccadvisor/cca1109.aspx
Kendall Watson January 13, 2013 at 05:13 AM
On the other hand, here's a anecdote of a council meeting in a nearby community a few years back where I think Ira is correct: http://www.kirklandreporter.com/news/24042574.html "Asher attempted to make a motion for an on-duty police officer to retain the documents, while other council members tried to determine exactly what had just happened. City Attorney Robin Jenkinson said the motion was out of the police captain’s jurisdiction."
Ira B. Appelman January 13, 2013 at 07:46 AM
Though I admire Kendall's willingness to pursue issues in depth and I like the Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC) article cited, I disagree that any of this justifies the mayor ordering the police to remove Lisa for going over the 3 minute time limit. The recent Ninth Circuit case cited by the MRSC article is Norse v. City of Santa Cruz et al (http://lawyersusaonline.com/wp-files/pdfs-2/norse-v-santa-cruz.pdf). In that case, Norse gave a Nazi salute at a Santa Cruz council meeting and was removed from the meeting. The Court of Appeals found that Norse could only be ejected if he disrupted the council meeting and that the Nazi salute, in and of itself, didn't appear to disrupt the meeting. The Court REVERSED a lower court summary judgment in favor of Santa Cruz. My point is that in 16 years NO ONE HAS BEEN MISTREATED LIKE THAT FOR GOING OVER THE TIME LIMIT. I have no problem with the time limit, though in the past, the time limit WASN'T strictly enforced unless the number of speakers was very large. It is INCONCEIVABLE that a speaker agreeing with the City Council would have been mistreated that way. Lisa was the first speaker ever ejected by the police because SHE DISAGREES with the way this Council and previous Councils have given away our rights on the I-90 bridge. As the NInth Circuit Court of Appeals states in Norse, that's "viewpoint discrimination" and it's a violation of the First Amendment.
Eva Zemplenyi January 13, 2013 at 08:03 AM
Thanks for your comments. Please contact us at NoTollOnI90@aol.com.
Robert T. Brown January 13, 2013 at 08:31 PM
According to Mercer Island Municipal Code 3.32.020 Department Functions and Duties, "The functions of the police department and fire department shall be to perform those duties assigned by the city manager." Code 2.06.070 Powers of Council states that "The city council shall have the powers and authority granted to legislative bodies of cities governed by RCW Title 35A ... except insofar as such power and authority is vested in the city manager." It follows, therefore, that Bruce Bassett engaged in unlawful behavior in his ordering of a Law Enforcement Officer to remove a citizen from the meeting. Only the City (mis)-Manager could legally do that, although he had no reason to do so. If Bassett was actually concerned about time, he could have opened up the other podium for speaking and cut the other microphone (which, by the way, was at an inaudible level for the entire meeting starting with Ira's comments). There are no City Council policies that prohibit donating speaking time, which was Lisa Belden's reason to keep talking. The Council should look at the School Board as a role model for accepting Public Input, and be more polite. The School Board often directs the Superintendent to respond, and sometimes they even engage in conversation themselves.
Jerry Goldberg January 14, 2013 at 07:58 AM
Very good points. I think people should consider Clibborn's reversal of earlier promises and her abandonment of her Mercer Island representation when she comes up for re-election. Clearly now that she serve on an important committee she no longer cares what is in the best interest of MI residents!
Dan Kolton January 14, 2013 at 10:43 AM
@ Jerry Goldberg WHAT? A politician lied directly to the faces of her constituents? Well I never HEARD of such a thing! The reality is Clibborn marches to whatever the party and bigger money than you tell her to do. The planners blew it big time in the 520, so everyone has to pay up to cover the mistakes. No one is accountable, no one ever gets fired, fat pensions for all. Ever read about the multi-million dollar toilet in Elbe? Go search it and you'll see why there are never enough dollars. Like that cluster pluck we will spend millions in studies and environmental impact statements to built what we would build anyway. Like I said before, we won a world war in less time than it takes to build a choo choo across the lake. There is no hope, we are the Sheeple waiting to be fleeced yet again. One party rule in this state forever!
Ira B. Appelman January 14, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Based on the original Memorandum Agreement that built the I-90 bridge, Mercer Island had single-occupant vehicle (SOV) access to the HOV lanes and veto power over ANY significant changes (like tolling) to I-90 operations. I think it will soon become clear that Islanders are losing their rights on the I-90 bridge because some miscreant politicians lied and Islanders relied on those lies and continued to vote for and support those miscreant politicians. According to state law (see below), if a citizen makes a false or misleading material statement to a "public servant," that citizen is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If a public servicer makes a false or misleading statement to citizens, it's business as usual. We need a statewide initiative that mirrors RCW 9A.76.175, holding "public servants" responsible for making false or misleading MATERIAL statements upon which the public relies. RCW 9A.76.175 Making a false or misleading statement to a public servant. A person who knowingly makes a false or misleading material statement to a public servant is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. "Material statement" means a written or oral statement reasonably likely to be relied upon by a public servant in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.
Dan Kolton January 14, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Here's an honest question: why toll I-90 at all? Since the plan is to eventually toll every major road, let's just toll 405 or I-5 instead. It's just as arbitrary as tolling I-90. Is it the bridge that make I-90 special and thus do deserving of tolling? That's been paid for long ago, just like all the other roads. Is it because it crosses the lake? I-5 goes under a convention center, isn't that special? 405 has no contact with Seattle proper, isn't that special? I say we toll Judy Clibborns street. Why not, it's as paid for as all the rest of the roads around here. She likes tolls so I'm sure she'll convince her neighbors it's for 'their own Good'. Or... Maybe the voters could one day hold the pols in Oly accountable for thir spending. Nah, let the tolling begin. We should be just as stupid and bled dry as all those progressive East Coast cities.
Kendall Watson January 14, 2013 at 06:53 PM
WSDOT: "No policy decision has been made" on SOV access to R8A HOV lanes. Here's the latest word on I-90 between MI and the state and Sound Transit, via the 2004 I-90 MOA amendments: 1. Alternative R-8A with High Capacity Transit deployed in the center lanes is the ultimate configuration for 1-90 in this segment; 2. Construction of R-8A should occur as soon as possible as a first step to the ultimate configuration; 3. Upon completion of R-8A, move as quickly as possible to construct High Capacity Transit in the center lanes; 4. Commit to the earliest possible conversion of center roadway to two-way High Capacity Transit operation based on outcome of studies and funding approvals. 5. Minimize construction impacts to the existing bicycle/pedestrian path, and maintain safe access to the path during construction; 6. Maintain the existing width of the bicycle/pedestrian path and to install screen treatments to create a safe barrier between the path users and vehicular traffic; and 7. To the extent of any loss of mobility to and from Mercer Island based on the outcome of studies, additional transit facilities and services such as additional bus service, parking available for Mercer Island residents, and other measures shall be identified and satisfactorily addressed by the Commission, in consultation with the affected jurisdictions pursuant to paragraph 14 of the Agreement, prior to the time the center roadway converts to High Capacity Transit.
Kendall Watson January 14, 2013 at 06:54 PM
The rationale give is to "improve mobility on the I-90 CrossLake Corridor", said WSDOT.
Dan Kolton January 15, 2013 at 12:30 AM
What are they improving? The money goes to backfill the 520 project.
Ira B. Appelman January 15, 2013 at 12:45 AM
Hi Kendall: If WSDOT recently released your first statement about "no policy decision has been made," that's the type of false and misleading statement I believe degrades our democracy and should send responsible government officals to jail. The rest is boilerplate from the previous agreement that betrayed Islanders. You'll note that there is ABSOLUTELY NO MENTION OF TRAINS in the agreement. "High Capacity Transit" could have been express buses which were favored in a survey of Eastsiders, but it was absolutely clear that Sound Transit coveted trains, even though Sound Transit claimed as above that "no policy decision had been made," but it was made soon after our "leaders" signed the agreement. Note that #7 doesn't even mention giving Islanders SOV access to the new R8A HOV lanes in compensation for loss of SOV access to the center lanes, because it was understood by all parties that the Island was being cheated out of its SOV access. What is mentioned is the laughable additional bus service that has never worked on the Island and additional parking. The Sound Transit representative's Powerpoint mentioned that parking. Conrad has claimed he has a letter from Sound Transit pledging $1 million for parking in that scheme the City has for moving city hall to the Walgreen's property. Our "leaders" traded away our SOV access and veto power over changes on the bridge deck for some stinking parking several blocks away from the train station!
Peter Landsman January 15, 2013 at 01:18 AM
Ira, light rail and the loss of MI SOV access to the center lanes are no Sound Transit conspiracy. To quote from the MI Reporter in 2008, "More than 7,700 Island voters, 58 percent, supported the regional expansion of light rail to the Eastside. With the successful vote, Sound Transit will now have the funds to add light rail across I-90 with a station on Mercer Island..." Elections have consequences. I suspect some of the islanders complaining about the looming loss of SOV access are the very people who voted for it. East Link is a done deal. The center lanes are going away. We voted for it. I suggest Islanders focus on the tolling issue and SOV access on the new HOV lanes rather than trying to continue to fight over light rail.
Kendall Watson January 15, 2013 at 01:49 AM
Hi Ira, I mention the amendment because it came up several times during the meeting and City Manager Conrad used it as a frame of reference. I believe it was the Sound Transit Board that came out in favor of rail after the amendment was agreed to, and then the vote Peter mentions gave it majority public support across the Sound Transit service area. The city and elected reps have been trying to preserve the SOV access to HOV lanes, and there's a letter posted on the city's website that was written by then-Mayor Jim Pearman: http://www.mercergov.org/files/East%20Link%20SDEIS%20Comment%20Letter%202011.pdf
Ira B. Appelman January 15, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Dear Peter: I am not getting my knowledge from misleading Distorter articles. I have been heavily involved for 15 years in the current round of changes including the I-90 bridge, park & ride, and train station. When the signers of the original Memorandum Agreement held multiple meetings on MI as the I-90 subcommittee, I attended and audio-taped the meetings. When a contractor's equipment failed, Sound Transit sought and received one of my tapes to produce accurate minutes of the meeting. Islanders have NEVER had an opportunity to choose to give up SOV rights to the center lane. I was part of an initiative campaign lend by Lisa Belden to allow Islanders to vote on giving up our SOV rights. We received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but those who betrayed the Island succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order and then bottling the issue up in court. When I read in an earlier blog your false claim that Islanders had voted to give up their SOV rights, I checked all the materials I have and found the issue wasn't raised in the election you reference, which was a regional transit vote that occurred years after what YOU call an ST "conspiracy." If you have any materials that show that Islanders believed they were voting to give up SOV rights and then did so, please provide them. In the past, Clibborn assured us that if the center lanes were taken away, we would have SOV access to the new, outer HOV lanes. That isn't happening.
Ira B. Appelman January 15, 2013 at 03:15 AM
Hi Kendall: This blog is a good introduction to what I hope will be a strong Island effort to preserve our I-90 rights, including SOV access to the new, HOV lanes, and no significant changes to I-90 operations, including tolling, without our consent. I believe a full airing of the facts, and you know I have the documents and recordings of meetings, will show that some miscreant politicians betrayed us, and we shouldn't let them get away with it! The letter that you reference of Pearman referring to a previous letter does the opposite of what you claim as an attempt to maintain our SOV rights. The state was making it clear that any new HOV lanes built on the I-90 bridge would OPEN as HOT, that is, tolled lanes for SOVs. Instead of insisting that MI continue to maintain untolled SOV access to the lanes regardless, we caved and gave up our rights, affirming that we lose our rights when HOT lanes are implemented (which was planned to happen immediately). Mercer Island's special rights on I-90 between I-405 and I-5 were seen as an impediment by regional partners to the development of an intergrated train system. So our rights had to be eliminated, which they believe they have done. Most of the politicians "representing" Mercer Island either had moved on to other jobs or had obvious conflicts of interest. In the approaching battle to preserve our rights, I look forward to providing PROOF as to what actually happened, and let Islanders judge for themselves.
Kendall Watson January 15, 2013 at 06:07 AM
Ah, good point. WSDOT declined to say at the Jan. 7 meeting whether or not the lanes would open as "HOT" lanes. It will be interesting to see whether or not the state will allow the center lanes to be used for a time for vehicular traffic — and thereby allowing SOV access for that period of time — until they close it to begin construction of the East Link rail line.
Ira B. Appelman January 15, 2013 at 08:08 AM
Hi Kendall: It won't be interesting because there was NEVER any intention to operate the 10-lane configuration. If you look at #3 & #4 of the amendment you cited above, one nanosecond after the 10-lane configuration is created, the center lanes will be closed. I remember one of our most incompetent negotiators, Bryan Cairns, waxing on and on about how the 10-lane configuration would be operated for a while, but NO ONE EVER AGREED TO THAT FANTASY. I thought it was interesting at the meeting that the WSDOT representative said there was no money in the budget to run the 10-lane configuration. Currently, the westbound center lanes feed into the far left of the outside lanes after they pass throught the tunnel. R8A requires four lanes going through the tunnel instead of the current three, so they presumably expect the four R8A lanes will require the lane that now accepts traffic from the center lanes.
Thomas Imrich January 16, 2013 at 03:34 AM
Mr Appelman is quite correct in both his recounting of the history of this I-90 political debacle, as well as in its consequence to MI. Further Mr Landsman is seriously misleading, if not dead wrong in his election assertions. There is no way Mercer Islanders would ever vote to trade MI SOV access, and paying I-90 tolls, for some highly subsidized train to nowhere, particularly if they knew all the real facts and costs. Worse, from 20 to 500 years from now, this train will be judged as one of the greatest wastes of money ever crammed down the throats of a major metropolitan region. It will be a worse economic disaster than the current subsidized Sounder. But worst of all, it will actually delay real energy and environmentally efficient transportation solutions, that get people, and their cargo, to and from where they actually need to go, when they actually need to get there.
Michelle Goldberg January 29, 2013 at 04:52 PM
If you attended the January 7, 2013 Mercer Island City Council meeting, do you remember who said that it was not a policy to grant toll exemptions to any particular group of people? The rationale--as I remember it--was that they want the tolling system to be fair and equitable. (Not sure how tolling a captive audience is fair and equitable but . . . .) I would appreciate your posting who said this and the wording, if possible. Thanks.
Jim Stanton February 01, 2013 at 05:03 AM
As I read this thread and the links the some posts contain, it appears that our elected legislative representatives have been convinced tolls the future of state road financing. Having reached that conclusion, they also seem to have decided as a group to hew to the same line: that "it's inevitable." Particularly disturbing are the instances cited where our state representatives, city council members and others have actively misrepresented commitments the state was supposedly making to MI residents. MI is uniquely affected by this proposed I90 tolling "plan", and I hope that our elected representatives, both on the City Council and in the state legislature, will provide the leadership to effectively make our case.
Dan Kolton February 01, 2013 at 07:11 PM
At the recent DOT meeting held at the MICC and led by Craig Stone, I came away with the information that DOT is not where the pressure needs to be aplied to be heard on this issue. Craig Stone and his team are another wheel in the cog of government 'just doing their job' to collect information and later send it on to the Legislature. It is our own State Rep. Judy Clibborn, Chair of the Transportation committee in Olympia, that will be the one to sell us out in the end. Go look at a map of her district. Oddly, it includes Mercer Island, and we are a BIG part of her district. The only thing politicians understand more than a 'need for more revenue' is losing their own jobs. And what does our District Rep think of tolling? From a link on her own website to her own words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hT11gc3mAFk Yes folks, YOU use I-90, so you should pay. It is only 'fair' per Judy. And since she runs the Transportation Committe and thus is the most powerful person on Transportation in Olympia, prepare for a dose of 'fairness' to come your way. Here's Judy's website, in case you want to 'contribute' to the demise of your own community. Though I encourage you to 'send her a comment' instead of a contribution. http://www.judyclibborn.com/
Jean Dunbabin February 06, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Judy is a perfect example of the fact that elections have consequences. Bet you didn't see it coming.
Peter S. Lewicki February 12, 2013 at 12:51 AM
WHO, exactly, does Judith Clibborn really represent in the legislature? And, WHY do Mercer Island voters continue to return her to office? She is demonstrating why most voters are turned off by the political process these days, therefore abdicating power to such power craving politicians.

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