Mercer Island officials are making a mistake if they think an EIS will prevent the Legislature from imposing I-90 tolls to help fund 520 bridge construction. The WSDOT and legislators can easily argue that the benefits from reduced I-90 congestion from imposing the tolls outweighs the increased congestion from those opting to go around the lake to avoid tolls.
Of course, if Sound Transit were really interested in reducing I-90 congestion, they could have added the fourth lanes to the outer roadways 15 years ago. Instead, they have delayed that action until 2016 to avoid any suggestion that they initiate BRT on the center roadways; knowing that doing so would have ended cross-lake light rail forever.
The impact of the I-90 tolls that Mercer Island commuters will likely have to pay is dwarfed by their loss of center bridge access from East Link. Sound Transit’s own studies show that adding the fourth lane to the outer roadway will not make up for the loss of the center roadway.
Mercer Island officials could stop both the tolls and the increased I-90 congestion by speaking out about stopping East Link. The $200 million Sound Transit will probably “invest” next year could be diverted to eliminate the tolls on both bridges, add the fourth lane to the outer roadways, and to initiate BRT service on the center roadway.
Mercer Island commuters and the entire Eastside could benefit.