Power in numbers

Okay folks, this is it.

We have been trying to tell Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Federal Highways Commission and anyone that would listen, that tolling I-90 would be grossly unfair to Islanders.

Aside from parsing whether or not tolling is legal or appropriate, here is the way we can show how tolling would affect us. Finally, we have some control. Here we can put numbers behind how the imposition of tolls will affect us.

There are both direct and more subtle effects. The first effect is monetary. We will have to pay more because of where we live. And a second, less easily quantified is the impact of how many trips might be skipped or changed. Every time we turn the key in the ignition — when we must get to the doctor, drive a child to school, pick up someone at the airport, get to work, ferry a team to sporting events or drive to care for a loved one or an ill or injured person at the hospita — we must consider delaying our trip or skipping it entirely. Those behaviors, a.k.a. impacts, will also be important to planners.

The data from this survey will be placed into an Environmental Impact Statement - which when approved, becomes a legal document. An EIS is the repository of data and analysis that provides a measurement of the impact of a proposed action, an action that will change our “environment.” The impact here is on how much people will be affected by paying to use the interstate. There will be loss of income, the loss of good teachers and a loss to businesses who subsidize tolls for workers.

By the time you read this, we will be into our fourth day of the survey sent to all Islanders on how often we use I-90. This is likely the most important thing we can do all week, as it promises a direct reporting of what tolling will mean for us not only on a daily or weekly basis, but will be used to forecast into the future regarding impacts to business and employers who might lose good employees or customers and who may subsidize those who commute and impact their bottom line.

Yes, the information sent out in the promotional materials that preceded the survey mailing were wrong. Because of our need to inform readers that the survey was coming, the Reporter printed the flawed sample provided by the agency. The image was provided by the agency to our print specs on Monday Nov. 11, (the Veterans Day Holiday, mind you) by WSDOT staff within just a few hours. We were impressed. And WSDOT responded promptly to complaints, answered at least one personal message from an Islander about the error and promptly sent out a postcard to all to explain the error and apologize.

Two Islanders wrote letters expressing their disbelief and associated disgust regarding the error. Yet both withdrew those letters after the quick response.

Let’s not focus on the sample error. Let’s just make sure we fill out our own surveys properly and get them back to WSDOT on time. The surveys are due no later than Nov. 26.

The more of us who complete this task, the more clout we will have. There is power in numbers.

And, speaking of numbers, alert and loyal readers will note that the Reporter wrote a story last week (Nov. 13 issue) on the number of Island voters  who returned their ballots in the General Election.

Just under half of all Islander voters returned their ballots — an amount much better than most jurisdictions — but still not enough.


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