Letter: I-90 Bridge Toll Would Hurt Eastside Jewish Life

Interstate 90 is an important freeway linking important locations in Eastside Jewish life, writes Ilyse Wagner of Bellevue. Tolls would hit members of conservative synagogues particularly hard, she writes.

Growing up Jewish on Mercer Island, I often heard from others that it was a center of Jewish life in the Puget Sound area. I didn’t necessarily believe them but when I moved back to the Pacific Northwest in 1994 to get married and raise a family, I knew being part of a Jewish community was very important to me. There are two conservative synagogues in the Puget Sound area – one in Seattle and one on Mercer Island. There are two Jewish Community Centers (JCC) in the Puget Sound area – one in Seattle and one on Mercer Island. There are two large chain grocery stores with fresh Kosher meat in the Puget Sound area – one in Seattle and one on Mercer Island (and there is a second under development also on Mercer Island).  

Like so many others, I chose to live on the Eastside (in Bellevue along the I-90 corridor) specifically in order to have easy access to the center of Jewish life that exists on Mercer Island.  Over the past 10 years, I have commuted to Mercer Island at least ten times a week to get my children to and from childcare at the JCC.  I have commuted to Mercer Island at least eight times a week to get my children to and from Hebrew School at Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation (HNT).  I have commuted to Mercer Island at least an additional six times a week to attend services at HNT, work out at the JCC, and buy Kosher food at the Albertsons on Mercer Island.  Tolling I-90 could make being an active member of the Eastside Jewish Community cost prohibitive.  It is incumbent upon the WSDOT to not restrict access to religious life.

Thank you,

Ilyse Wagner


Jerry Gropp Architect AIA February 12, 2013 at 12:43 AM
Not just Jewish life. J-
jon madd February 12, 2013 at 01:06 AM
are u kidding me, your going to bring up religion when it comes to highway tolls. Get THE F outta here
Connie Carson February 12, 2013 at 01:45 AM
I think we need a little civility here Jon. Tolls will affect many aspects of our lives. Ms Wagner's concerns are well stated and legitimate for her family. Not the same as mine or yours perhaps, but very real for her. Maybe a little less crankiness?
Venice Buhain February 12, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Thanks, Connie, for your comments. A toll would affect different people in different ways. I think it's informative to know how different people would be affected by a toll.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA February 12, 2013 at 03:23 AM
. My father took his Wallingford family over the first Floating Bridge the night it opened. That one later sank and had to be replaced. J-
unknownauthor February 12, 2013 at 05:52 AM
What difference does it make to you Jon what her reasons are? What if her doctor, dentist and hairstylist are all on Mercer Island? The point is that a toll is disruptive to people's lives and impedes freedom of movement and association. Tolls should only be considered as a last resort and then only temporarily to fund a specific project.
Barbara Soloski Albin February 12, 2013 at 06:03 AM
It seems to me that your remarks, Jon, are intended just to be rude. I haven't been back to the area in years, but I recall while staying with family on Mercer Island, we would make many trips back and forth to Bellevue during each day. I guess this would also affect tourists in the area.
WendyB February 12, 2013 at 03:05 PM
I'm with Jon on this. It's a public highway. Leave religion out of it. I also don't care about the 7-11 on ME, or the Safeway, or your million dollar home. If you don't like the toll, you can move.
dogparkfan February 12, 2013 at 03:10 PM
While perhaps the comment was uncivil, I agree with Mr. Madd; clumsily playing the religious discrimination card in this situation is unseemly. There are lots of good, rational arguments to be made on both sides of the tolling issue. This is not one of them.
Karen Franke February 12, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Good heavens, people, calm down! Anyone for a toll on the MI floating bridge doesn't live here. It would affect many of us who live here who are members of the middle (even lower middle) class. Not all of us live in million dollar homes. Get a clue!
www.johnlscott.com/paulm February 12, 2013 at 04:35 PM
I play soccer on MI fields 2 times a month. I am against the government taking more of my funds to drive from Renton to MI.
Martha Sharp February 12, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Contrary to popular opinion, not all Mercer Islanders are rich. Unfortunately the only way to get to and from here is I90 . Those of us who live here and go off island for work and take our children or grandchildren to their activities and appointments as well as all of those who do the reverse have no other option.
Jan Stout February 12, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Perhaps the entire community needs to recognize that thousands of Seattle and Eastside residents have lived with tolls on the 520 bridge off and on for more than 50 years. Remember there were tolls on the M.I. bridge for many years too! Having tolls is just the cost of having a bridge and not having to go around the lake or by boat--as was the case for many years. Tolls are part of the cost of living or working playing or going to school outside of your own neighborhood. Roads and bridges are not free! Some body has to pay for them and maintain them. And that is us, the users.
JuliaZ February 12, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Perhaps you could save a ton a money, and avoid the tolls for the most part, by LIVING on Mercer Island? The environment would thank you... that's a LOT of gasoline over the years! When we realized that the vast majority of things that we do are within five miles of Crossroads in Bellevue, we moved there. In almost 6 years, we've paid about $10,000 more a year for housing, but we've saved over $15,000 a year in gasoline, tires, and other wear and tear on our cars, not to mention the many hours of living that we got back when we got off the highway. People are not powerless in the face of these tolls. You are making a choice to live in Bellevue and commute to Mercer Island so many times a week (for whatever reason, religious or otherwise), and you could easily make different choices, living within the Jewish community on MI. I am happy to see that I-90 is going to be tolled. It will encourage more people to live near where they work, or to take public transit. Fewer car miles = less pollution. Beautiful! I am happy to pay to take a bridge when I need to or choose to, like last weekend when we went to Ballard to see Eldridge Gravy and the Court Supreme at the Tractor. I could imagine a special Good to Go pass issued to legitimate Mercer Islander residents that would grant some number of free trips on & off the island for a few years. But nobody on the San Juan Islands gets that sort of free ride... it's part of island life, and tolls are much cheaper than ferries.
Jean Dunbabin February 12, 2013 at 07:19 PM
It is interesting to see how quickly this is being reduced to class warfare. Those who are not affected scorning those who are as being deserving of punishment for living where the do or choosing to attend a church or synagog on Mercer Island or choosing to live on an island with no hospital. Shame on you.
unknownauthor February 12, 2013 at 07:28 PM
So sad to see the vitriol towards folks who are against a new toll on the I-90 bridge. This is not a toll to pay for or even maintain I-90, it is just a scheme to pour more cash into the state's coffers instead of them learning to be efficient with the money they already have. And this is not about Mercer Island residents, the vast majority of folks who use I-90 do not live on the Island. This toll hurts middle class and low income families most. It is rather arrogant to demand others change how they live and where they go because you say so.
Fred Armstrong February 12, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Amen, MichaelB...
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA February 12, 2013 at 09:09 PM
The first Floating Bridge sank. Here's a link to this very sad story. JG- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacey_V._Murrow_Memorial_Bridge#1990_disaster
Rouchard Duprie February 12, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Of all the bigoted pieces of journalism I've read, this is one of them.
Jean Dunbabin February 12, 2013 at 11:04 PM
I would not call it journalism.
Rouchard Duprie February 12, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Thank you Jean. I stand corrected.
Deborah February 12, 2013 at 11:29 PM
Where they can't divide by class -- which is not actually class, but income -- they will divide by race or religion or political affiliation. Now, we see growing signs of agism as they pit the younger generation against the elders who are now leaving their highest tax-paying years and moving toward retirement. The intent is to fragment because it is easier to oppress a society shattered by hatred than it is to oppress a cohesive culture fused together by common goals of peace, freedom and justice. Do not think for a moment that issues like these are not intentionally created by those who will sacrifice our freedoms so they can achieve their goals of "equality."
Connie Carson February 13, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Could we now all devote our energies to fighting tolls?
Claus Jensen February 13, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Some of the posts above brings to mind Winston Churchill's famous quote: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Whatever happened to Civil Discourse?
Connie Carson February 13, 2013 at 05:59 AM
Bravo, Mr Jensen.
Publius February 13, 2013 at 06:24 AM
And if this was being used to support the I-90 facility I would agree with you. But it isn't and so that is THE fundamental problem.
Publius February 13, 2013 at 06:33 AM
Funny, I think a toll will make MI dis-advantaged despite the fact that it is a more 'eco-friendly' location. I moved to MI because it was central and had good access to both Seattle and Bellevue. Now if I am just going to get tolled, I might as well move out to where I can buy a nicer house with more land, lower taxes and just pay for the commute. I paid more for housing and will have to pay an additional tax just to go to the store or get medical care. You also fail to comprehend the larger commercial implications and the extra gas that will be burnt by trucks diverting around the 405. Your mentality is the problem.
Publius February 13, 2013 at 06:34 AM
ding ding ding! we have a winner!
Jerry Goldberg February 13, 2013 at 07:44 AM
Its not about her "religion" per se its about access for people. This is no different than people bringing up access to doctors, hospitals, an youth leagues; her only point is the tolling will penalize a group of people to whom commuting specifically to Mercer Island is necessary. There are many people who come to the many churches on the Island or unique businesees who likely have the same issues


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