City supports bridge tolls, mostly

December 8, 2008

By Jon Savelle

The city of Issaquah has taken an official stand on the question of tolls for the Lake Washington bridges, declaring support for the idea while wanting to keep it affordable to low-wage workers. These points were made in a Dec. 4 City Council letter to Bob Drewel, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council and chairman of the state Route 520 Tolling Implementation Committee.

Drewel had spoken to the council Nov. 25, when he outlined options for tolling one or both bridges. The council’s letter, signed by Council President Maureen McCarry on behalf of the city, raised five specific concerns about them. 

“First, we fully support implementing tolls on SR 520 in 2010 as a means to finance new construction in that corridor, as well as for mitigation on other Eastside roads that could be impacted by diversion effects, ” the letter says. “We are particularly concerned about diversion onto north-south routes … as alternatives during peak hours, we believe that those routes should receive improvements before any charges are considered on Interstate 90.”

The “diversion effects” are drivers who would choose different routes to avoid tolls. The city is concerned that tolls on 520 would push such drivers toward I-90 via Issaquah. 

Other suggestions made by the city are:

4Maintain a free or low-cost way for minimum-wage workers to cross I-90. 

4Improve transit service between Issaquah and Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond prior to tolling, and make it a priority to fund light rail in the I-90 corridor.

4Enact a proposal, such as one offered by Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, for a combination of HOT lanes and free lanes on I-90.

4Ensure that any tolling program is done efficiently. 

Whether and how to implement tolls is a question for the state Legislature, which is expected to address the issue in the coming session. Details about the 520 tolling options can be found on the Web at www.build520.org.

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