Ever since the state announced that it would pay for a new 520 bridge with a toll, City of Kenmore officials knew that it would impact their residents.
The State Department of Transportation’s original survey stated that it would only add 50 cars a day to SR 522 and the Sammamish River Bridge.
“We knew that was too small of a number,” said Kenmore Mayor David Baker. “The Legislature now agrees with us on the impacts. The state has admitted that it is more like a 10-15 percent increase.”
But now with some in the state Legislature proposing an I-90 toll to help pay for the 520 bridge, Kenmore officials feel they have more leverage to get mitigation funds. The Kenmore City Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting mitigation resources from the state of Washington to address impacts from regional tolling at the city’s Jan. 28 meeting. And the city might be getting help from a new and somewhat unexpected ally - the chair of the House Transportation Committee Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island).
“She is fairly supportive of Kenmore’s transportation issues,” said Baker, who met with the representative in Olympia on Thursday. “There is the possibility of mitigation in the new transportation package.”
That package has become very controversial for many of Clibborn’s constituency on Mercer Island as it includes tolling for the I-90 bridge.
“I was pleasantly surprised that she asked us to put it down in writing and get it into the hopper, so to speak,” said Baker.
There are four east-west corridors - SR 522, SR 520, I-90 and I-405 - connecting the communities that surround Lake Washington. With tolls already on 520, city officials expect that Kenmore traffic could worsen with the addition of I-90 tolls.
The city has not received mitigation funding as a result of SR 520 tolling impacts. City officials believe increased traffic resulting from SR 520 tolling has negatively impacted the city with noise and air pollution, increased traffic volumes, increased parking in neighborhoods as a result of increased transit ridership and increased congestion on city corridors.
City officials are concerned that cumulative impacts of Washington State Department of Transportation activity, including tolling, on other Lake Washington east/west corridors will not be evaluated for Kenmore specifically.
“We have been doing this for years,” said Baker about trying to get mitigation funds for local roads. “We want to make sure our voices are heard.”
Last fall the Kenmore City Council discussed the possibility of tolling the Sammamish River Bridge to help pay for replacing the aging west bridge. That discussion quickly died when residents in and outside of the community voiced their disapproval. The west bridge was constructed in 1938, while the east bridge was built in 1970.
“Several large cracks in the west bridge that had been relatively stable since 1998 are now ‘moving’ and wider,” according to city documents.
But replacing the bridge could cost $20 million and city officials contend that the additional traffic diverted from the 520 bridge because of tolling is aging the Kenmore thoroughfare faster.
“I don’t expect to get all $20 million,” said Baker. “That is a lot for Kenmore residents to have to pay for and every little bit helps.”
The city has also been helping to foot the bill to replace the aging SR 522 stretch through the city, which is a state route and the primary responsibility of the state.
Residents are encouraged to submit comments to the Washington State Department of Transportation. To submit comments online or for more information on I-90 tolling, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/I90.