My husband and I went to the City Council meeting Monday night, Jan. 7, 2013. The topic was the "possibility" of putting a toll on I-90. Supposedly, it isn't a done deal, but everyone in the room thought otherwise. Several people who got up to speak had points that I want to pass on. Our children were born and raised on the Island and participated in many activities on the Eastside and in Seattle. None of them live here and come from off Island to see us, and vice-versa.
My eyes were opened when I heard what was presented by the representatives of WSDOT, Sound Transit and our elected officials in Olympia. Before this, I was like other people, who thought it a bad idea and "not fair" to the residents of Mercer Island.
However, several people who had done their homework said by their calculations it could add up to nearly $5,000 per year for just one active family. That's astounding! We should all try to estimate how many times we go off Island, either east or west (the direction that would be tolled hasn't yet been determined) and try to come up with a dollar figure for our own households. While the amounts of the tolls haven't been decided either, we can all estimate a figure based on the SR-520 tolls. Busy families with kids in all sorts of activities go to Bellevue and Seattle all the time. There are events and social gatherings and cultural things we go to, and we'd have to pay each time we cross the bridge. There would likely not be any sort of deal for MI residents. And the use of the HOV lanes still hasn't been decided yet either, but don't hold your breath for that one.
The money generated from the tolling would go to finish paying for the construction of the new SR-520 bridge. Mercer Island residents would be the most heavily impacted because we have to use a bridge to go anywhere off Island. We would be contributing the most to the dollars still needed for SR-520.
I think of the older MI residents, may of whom own their homes outright and are already paying dearly in property taxes. Many, in addition to other citizens, live on fixed incomes. To put this additional burden might put them over the edge and mean they couldn't stay in their homes. In addition to older residents, there are many people who come from off Island to work at the grocery stores, retirement facilities, schools, cleaning houses, babysitting, offices and more. If they see their incomes being affected significantly because of the toll, they might choose to work elsewhere. By the same token, their employers might cover that cost and pass it on to the consumers. Consider organizations located here: private schools, churches, small businesses.
A toll to and from Mercer Island would have a huge impact on our daily lives. We who live here have no option about "going around." Eastside and Seattle residents do. Many of them do not cross the lake on a regular basis, so the once-in-a-while cost would not b onerous. Their burden would be nothing compared to Mercer Island resident. Our representative Judy Clibborn, who of course lives here on the Island, was quoted three years ago saying she would never support tolling I-90 and now has flipped and says there is no other way to finish paying for the SR-520 bridge — we have to toll I-90.
The point was raised about the legality of tolling an interstate. WSDOT and Sound Transit have found a way around that, too.
The citizens of Mercer Island who I talk to are all against putting a toll on I-90, but few have spoken up about it except to friends and neighbors. We need to band together and fight what is wrong. Take the time to think about your individual impact. Why should we foot the bill for the other bridge? We need to write to Judy Clibborn, Marcie Maxwell and Steve Litzow, the new governor, Sound Transit and WSDOT. There is a community meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Community Center, at which the public will be able to express their opinions. We should all attend, and even if we don't speak, make a statement by the size of the crowd.