Idea to toll I-90 to help fund SR-520 not new

Despite a positive spin on how well tolling performed on the SR-520 bridge during its first year, it will not be enough to pay for its rebuilding.

Traffic counts from the Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) show that while volumes initially fell 48 percent on SR-520, they have now recovered to 70 percent of pre-tolling volumes.

For its first full year that ended Dec. 29, SR-520 tolling has brought in approximately $50 million. But it will not be enough.

The budget set for the project is $4.6 billion. Forecasts show that only $4.1 billion can be expected from SR-520 tolling. Tolling I-90 is needed to make up the difference.

How Islanders will fare in the upcoming change is the focus of a meeting that will be held between 4 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 29, at the Mercer Island Community and Events Center.

The decision to determine if I-90 tolling revenues would be needed for SR-520, has been in the works for at least three years. A group called the SR-520 Legislative Workgroup reviewed and recommended a financing strategy to fund the recommended SR 520 design options. The group began meeting as early as 2009 and included ten members of the Legislature and the leaders of the Joint Transportation Committee including Mercer Island state Representative Judy Clibborn.

Tolling of I-90 was part of a multi-part strategy set out by the group which included looking at various sources of funds in addition to SR-520 tolls. As it became apparent that SR-520 tolling would not be enough and that other sources were not available, the group concluded that general tolling of I-90 to fill the gap needed to start “no sooner than 2014.” However recent statements appear to say 2015 is a more reasonable start date.

Tolling meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 29

The meeting with WSDOT about tolling on I-90 will take place at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29 from 4 to 7 p.m.

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