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.