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Full EIS will likely delay toll decision | Editorial

By MARY L. GRADY
Mercer Island Reporter Editor
May 15, 2013 · Updated 4:34 PM
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Whether it is a balky Internet connection or the snail-like pace at which squabbling politicians reach compromise, some things never move fast enough. However, this time a slower pace may be in our favor. The city, in its effort to fend off tolling of Interstate 90, has a new ally in the effort — time.

A law sponsored by state Sen. Steve Litzow and supported by state Rep. Judy Clibborn and passed by the Legislature will compel the Washington State Department of Transportation to conduct a thorough analysis of the proposal to toll Interstate 90 to pay for completing SR-520. Now, the idea of tolling drivers on I-90 will be subject to scrutiny through a full Environmental Impact Statement process rather than the more abbreviated Environmental Assessment.

A full EIS will quantify and expand the analysis of the economic, social and environmental impacts that will result from tolling. The study must also include a look at possible alternatives to tolling by exploring other potential sources of funding to complete SR-520. The study will also address possible ways to mitigate the impacts of tolling, should it be approved.

A full EIS will take a couple of years to complete and will significantly delay a final decision on the tolling proposal. A good thing, perhaps.

In the meantime, uncertainty surrounding tolling will still have an affect on the local economy. It may suppress housing prices here and delay decisions by retailers or developers wanting to start new businesses in the Town Center. And we need to get those empty storefronts in the Town Center filled ASAP. In order to keep our town center healthy and vibrant, we need to keep as many Islanders as possible shopping and spending right here. Those dollars bring in jobs, income for local businesses and sales tax revenues.

So, the sooner this process gets underway, the better. Hopefully the stars will line up the way we want them to. But there is no guarantee.


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