Looking at tolling I-90

 By guest blogger Michell Mouton

We’re collecting tolls on SR 520 to generate $1 billion in funding to help fund construction of a new SR 520 bridge – but we still need to close a $1.4 billion funding gap to complete SR 520 improvements between the west side of the bridge and I-5.

For years, planning studies and legislative actions have considered I-90 tolling revenue to help fill that gap. And since SR 520 tolls started, we’ve seen I-90 traffic volumes go up 11 percent or about 15,000 more vehicles a day. So the State Legislature has decided that the time has come to start the discussion again. 

We’re studying the possibility of adding tolls on I-90, between Seattle and Bellevue to help address both of the challenges: balance Cross-Lake Washington traffic and generate revenue to fill the SR 520 construction funding gap.

Deciding whether to toll I-90 involves several steps including an environmental assessment (EA) that’s required as part of the National Environmental Protection Policy Act (NEPA). Basically, NEPA is in place to ensure that we understand, document and if necessary, mitigate the effects of I-90 tolling. That’s why it’s important we hear from you as we start this comment period. We want to learn about any project effects - good or bad - because the EA helps inform decision-making around this project.

How can you get involved?
The 30-day public comment period extends from Jan. 22 to midnight Feb. 22. There are many ways to share your feedback:

Go to a public scoping meeting:  Learn more about the project, talk to project team members and comment in person.
The following meetings take place from 4-7 p.m.:
  • Tuesday, Jan. 29 at Mercer Island Community Center, 8236 SE 24th St., Mercer Island.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 30 at Bellevue City Hall, 450 11th Ave. NE, Bellevue.
  • Thursday, Jan. 31 at Yesler Community Center, 917 E. Yesler Way, Seattle.
Go online: All meeting materials are posted on our web page and you can comment online as well: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/i90/onlinescoping.

Send us an email: You can also submit comments by e-mail at I90EAcomments@wsdot.wa.gov or by writing to Ms. Angela Angove at 999 Third Avenue, Suite 2200, Seattle, WA 98104. Mailed comments must be postmarked by Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2013.

What do I comment about? Ask yourself these questions to help get your ideas flowing:
  • How will I be affected by tolling on I-90? 
  • What should WSDOT consider as they look at the social and environmental influences of tolling I-90?
How much time do I have? Don’t panic if you can’t give us your feedback today or next week. This is a long process.
  • The comment period runs until February 22, 2013
  • More opportunity for public comment will be available at a public hearing in November where we will share the findings of the environmental assessment. The final environmental document is scheduled to be complete in late 2013.