Ms. Friends’ letter had many misconceptions.
#1: That our political philosophy has been smaller government and less taxes.
In fact, the Washington DOT has grown 250 percent since 1991 in a state economy that for the most part has been growing at less than 2 percent. The gas tax was raised seven times since 1991. Each time the people were promised that the raise in gas tax would pay for the additional lanes on the new parallel SR-520 bridge, and instead the money disappeared into other projects and growing a huge bureaucracy.
#2: That the money would not be found to rebuild SR-520 and that without the rebuild there would only be the I-90 bridge across the lake.
In fact, the SR-520 bridge is not being rebuilt. A parallel bridge is being built next to the old SR-520 bridge. Ironically, the reason for the rebuild was congestion, which is now reduced 30 percent by the toll. If they had just tolled SR-520 and not built the bridge, the problem would have been solved and the state would have lots of extra money.
#3: Mercer Islanders are very wealthy.
A study in the Mercer Island Reporter a few years ago showed that a large percentage of people living on the Island bought their houses in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. They are retired now, living on fixed incomes and couldn’t afford to buy their houses at the current prices. So, yes, Paul Allen and others like him skew the household income upward, but don’t assume the rest of us are wealthy.
#4: We could spend a lot of money fighting the toll, or spend it instead on bicycle paths, parks and emergency equipment.
Mercer Island already has more bicycle paths and parks than its citizens can use, and if you haven’t noticed we’re already spending a lot of money on a new fire station.
The rest was a lot of could be and might be.
I have personal experience with a business that was going to locate here, but decided not to because of the threat of the toll. The businesses that decide to stay on the Island will subsidize the tolls that their employees pay and add the increased costs of doing business here into the costs of goods and services. The school district, city, fire and police will subsidize their employees and add that into our taxes. So, the residents of the Island will not only pay for themselves, but also for all those other employees and businesses.
I bring it to your attention that tolls are being planned in several more places on I-5, I-405, the waterfront tunnel and other places around the state. Also, once there, they can be raised at any time, like on the Narrows bridge. Remember that even more money will have to be found for the Eastside light rail starting in five years.
I, for one, have not been this angry at government since the Vietnam War and am sick of being bullied by these schoolyard bullies who take more than just my lunch money.