Islanders had a lot of questions for WSDOT tolling director Craig Stone about the tolls proposed for the I-90 corridor last Tuesday evening at the MICEC. Islanders were insistent that they needed a lot more evidence that the agency had done their homework regarding the need for more money to finish SR-520 — and why the $1.4 billion shortfall should be made up from drivers on I-90.
The questions included the following set of queries reworked several different ways: Why were estimates regarding the amount of revenue forecasted to be collected from tolling SR-520 so wrong? How would cost overruns be dealt with? Would tolling end when the construction was completed or be extended indefinitely as it is in other states? Have other sources of funding for revenue, such as fees on the port or the convention center or hotel rooms, been fully explored?
Mr. Stone was asked about particulars that he was not yet ready to answer. It is too early in the process, he said, which is why the meetings were set up in the first place. They are the first steps in a process that will take many months as the agency gathers information on what needs to be addressed in the environmental assessment aka an Environmental Impact Statement. The EA will not only address actual physical impacts to the environment, but how tolling will affect the regional economy, the business community, schools and public services down to the individual level.
So we must say more than “tolling is not fair to Islanders.” We need to go on the record. We must explain the reasons why we believe it is unfair. Those reasons can be found in all the conversations that Islanders have had with each other these last few weeks. In essence, having tolls will add to the cost of most everything, impacting the bottom line for both businesses and individuals. If we want the agency to understand and address that position, we are going to have to lay out our case.
Go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/I90/OnlineScoping to learn more about the process and how to send in your comments electronically. Comments can be simply mailed as well to: Angela Angove, 999 Third Avenue, Suite 2200, Seattle, WA 98104.