I’d like to respond to councilman Mike Cero’s recent article in the . I suspect that tolls are a concern for most Mercer Island residents and appreciate the work the council has done to oppose this, but let’s be clear. Initiative I-1125 does it not prevent tolls on I-90, nor is it simply about that.
Tolls are not a certainty on I-90, in fact they are not currently in any officially approved plan. And passage of 1125 does not keep them from coming. The focus on tolls is misleading. All that I-1125 does related to I90 tolls is ensure that revenue from tolls is used for projects where the tolls are located.
But let’s think about the ramifications of such a plan. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that under I-1125, when the I90 bridge needs repair, which it will, that I-90 will need to become a toll bridge. Is this one of Mike’s “ignored consequences”?
More importantly, I-1125 does more than just dictate where toll revenue is spent. One of its effects will be to delay currently planned transportation projects. It also has the unintended, or maybe actually intentional, consequence of stopping light rail from coming across Lake Washington. The voters have already approved this (57%) and we have spent significant funds preparing for this. When Mike states, “I-1125 will not stop regional transportation projects”, analysis of the effects of the initiative would suggest otherwise.
Finally, in spite of what Mike suggests, I-1125 would make transportation funding more expensive not less. Yes, borrowing against toll revenue is more expensive than using general obligation (GO) bonds. But, what Mike fails to point out is that our state is already highly leveraged and can’t borrow more money using this approach. Therefore, to complete promised and necessary transportation projects, it is turning to an alternative approach to secure funding, namely loans backed by toll revenue. Because this provision pus toll pricing in politicians hands, something which no other state does, I-1125 is expected to raise rates at which the State can borrow money. Making toll pricing subject to political whims is expected to be viewed as risky for bondholders, thus driving rates up. And to be clear, I-1125 doesn’t force use of GO bonds for transportation.
Latest polls suggest support for I-1125 is falling (according to an Oct 24th Seattle Times article). The opposition against I-1125 is strong, and includes a variety of businesses that think its passage will hurt our economy. Please join them in voting no