It might be time to stop and take a breath to figure out who to be mad at about tolling on I-90. First, just who is in charge of tolling on I-90? Who will determine if, how, and how much tolls should be? It is not the Mercer Island City Council, not Sound Transit, not even the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) or even the SR-520 Workgroup made up of Legislators and state officials who studied how to pay for rebuilding the corridor. Instead, it is the Washington State Transportation Commission in Olympia that “determines and establishes toll rates and exemptions for state toll facilities in Washington.” According to WAC 468-270-040: “In determining toll amounts, the Transportation Commission considers data and information provided by the Department of Transportation, public opinion and advice from any required citizen advisory committee.”
While the city is ready to take input and feels the pain of Islanders, they simply cannot say ‘we won’t do it.‘ We do not own the interstate or the park-and-ride; WSDOT and Metro Transit, respectively, operate them for the people of Washington state. Our thoughts on the matter are important to these agencies, but no more and no less than our neighbors in Bellevue, Issaquah or Sammamish, who must also deal with tolls in the future. It is easy to imagine commuters who live or work in Bellevue who might feel the same way we do. There is no ‘way’ to get out of Bellevue to get to Seattle without a long detour. Surely Islanders’ arguments that they must go to Seattle for work or medical treatment cannot be much different than theirs.
So, it is incumbent upon us to participate in these discussions and to do so in an informed and constructive way. Write to the WSTC, comment through WSDOT’s environmental assessment process and other avenues. Go to www.wstc.wa.gov and take a look. There is an easy way to let them know how you feel: go to www.wstc.wa.gov/ContactUs/feedback.htm.