Our state representatives have told us that tolling I-90 is inevitable. Nothing in politics is inevitable — especially when it is bad policy for the community, the state and the national freeway system. Contrary to our representative’s position that tolling I-90 to pay for the SR-520 project is inevitable, we believe that it is such bad policy that it is inevitable that the state will find an alternative that is more efficient and will have fewer unintended consequences.
Lost in the dialogue is that the SR-520 bridge connecting I-5 to Redmond is fully funded. The unfunded section is the “Montlake Approach” that goes from I-5 to Montlake. Nearly 30,000 vehicles use this section, but will not be tolled by the SR-520 bridge tolling gantries.
Rep. Clibborn was asked why none of the $10 billion (now $8.4 billion) of new transportation funding she proposed would go to pay for the unfunded portion of SR-520. She said, “My job is to provide funding for transportation statewide.” Her job is to represent the people of her district. In 2009, she said in a Seattle Times interview about SR-520 funding, “The measure does not call for tolling the Interstate 90 bridge over Lake Washington. It isn't on the table and it won’t be. Tolling I-90 would unfairly force drivers using that bridge to help pay for something they’re not using.”
What didn’t make sense in 2009 still doesn’t make sense today! Our representative needs to stop policies that hurt her district. As chair of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Clibborn has the power to stop bad tolling legislation. While it’s true each elected official only has one vote in which to pass legislation, it is also true that the House Transportation Committee chair can stop transportation legislation from progressing through her committee.
In representing her district to stop the tolling of I-90, she would be promoting good policy for the state and the rest of the country. Tolling a federal interstate to pay for an underfunded state road is poor policy. It’s poor policy for the nation, it’s poor policy for the region’s dependency on free flowing commerce and it’s poor policy to those in the 41st District who will live with the disproportionate and enormous financial penalty and diversion caused by I-90 tolls.
Rep. Clibborn has unselfishly served the 41st for many years. Many don’t want her career identified among neighbors to be tolls on I-90 to pay for the unfunded/untolled portion of SR-520 Montlake Approach. Many want her on the 41st District team working hard to stop I-90 tolls and to pay for the SR-520 Montlake Approach from alternative sources, value-engineering or other savings. Many hope she changes her message from “I-90 tolls are inevitable” to “no tolls on I-90.”
I hope Rep. Clibborn includes a budget proviso requiring WSDOT to perform a full and comprehensive Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of all consequences to the region and all funding alternatives other than a toll on an interstate to pay for the unfunded/untolled Montlake Approach. She should amend her transportation package to set aside a portion of the $10 billion in state gasoline tax increases to finish SR-520 work that is underfunded.
Mike Cero is a Mercer Island City Councilman.
Editor’s Note: Ms. Clibborn said in her recent interview with the Mercer Island Reporter (issue of April 3) that she had sent in a proviso to fund a full Environmental Impact Statement for tolling on Interstate 90 earlier this session.