Tolling on Interstate 90 is perhaps three years away, but about 800 residents of Mercer Island were already alarmed enough to attend a forum Tuesday night about the state’s proposal to charge I-90 motorists for the sake of finishing the new Highway 520 bridge.
“We don’t have any choice but to pay a toll to get off our island. That’s the fundamental problem,” said Owen Blauman, holding a sign that said “Keep I-90 a FREE WAY.” He said, “It’s a little bit like Alcatraz.”
Joy Lin said she often drives on and off the island multiple times, leaving work on the Eastside to take her parents to medical appointments in Seattle. She suggests a “green pass” in which people who prove island residency, say through a utility bill, are issued a state Good to Go transponder allowing free passage.
An intriguing new option would split the corridor across Lake Washington in half, so that the toll devices are mounted on the west and east shores of the island. That way, instead of a $4 toll each way, charged across the lake, the islanders would pay a split toll of $2 each way to either drive west into Seattle or east to Bellevue.
Three meetings this week are meant to assist the state with “scoping” for what angles will be addressed in an environmental impact statement for tolling. The second is Wednesday at Bellevue City Hall, 450 110th Ave. N.E., and the third on Thursday in Seattle at Yesler Community Center, 917 E. Yesler Way, both from 4 to 7 p.m.
Another round of process is expected in November, and then the Legislature would vote in 2014 on whether and how to toll.
Here is a link to the presentation by Washington DOT, and one to the No Toll on I-90 website. KIRO newsradio’s Dave Ross, a longtime Mercer Island resident, further explores the “Alcatraz” soundbite here.
In reality, the potential tollpayers are spread far across the metro area, as this DOT map illustrates: