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Olympia hears high-density transit and 520 tolling bills

The halls of Olympia were bustling last week as state lawmakers decided to amend House Bill 1490, which promotes high-density development around Sound Transit stations, and Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, introduced HB 2211, which pushes for early tolling on 520 and avoids tolling I-90.

On Feb. 7, lawmakers announced their decision to amend House Bill 1490, which promotes high-density development around Sound Transit stations, to ease its “one-size-fits-all” mandate of 50 units per acre within a half-mile radius of each station (see Reporter Feb. 4 archive article, “Transit Station on Island”).

The amended version of HB 1490 recognizes that some Seattle and Eastside neighborhoods are designed for single-family homes, while others may benefit from the high-density model. If passed, the bill would still require cities to adopt transit-oriented development around Sound Transit stations, yet each neighborhood’s topography would be taken into close consideration. HB 1490 would exempt public buildings, sidewalks, parks, open space and nonbuildable terrain from development requirements.

The bill was passed through the Committee on Feb. 17, and is still subject to amendment.

Also last week, House Transportation Committee chair, Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, took the first legislative step against tolls on I-90.

The former Island mayor, along with three co-sponsors, introduced House Bill 2211 to impose early tolls on the 520 span, thereby saving money and earning enough money to fund an Evergreen State Bridge replacement.

According to the bill, which would keep tolls off I-90, the state should begin tolling 520 in January 2010. The legislation would impose tolls of up to $3.25 and would allow an increase to $3.80 each way once the new six-lane bridge is opened in 2016. Tolls would vary by time of day, which would be determined by the state Transportation Commission and collected by the state Department of Transportation.

Clibborn and her team, however, face opposition in the Senate. Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, is pushing for tolls on both bridges, 520 and I-90, in order to pay off Evergreen State Bridge construction in a reasonable time period. He and two other senators have introduced Senate Bill 5493, which would impose tolls on both highways.

A hearing on HB 2211 was held on Feb. 18 in Olympia.

More information on HB 2211 and HB 1490 can be found at: leg.wa.gov/legislature.

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