February 12, 2013
I-90 toll targets Eastside drivers
When tolling on the Evergreen Floating Bridge was first considered, this newspaper believed it should extend to the Interstate 90 bridge as well, to generate funds for the bridge at a quicker pace and to keep the cost down for any one group of commuters.
However, two years have passed and the notion of extending tolling on I-90 feels more like the Eastside is being picked on.
If Seattle commuters and visitors are asked to help pay for a new bridge, shouldn’t it extend to all, including those coming and going along the Interstate 5 corridor and state Highway 99?
One reason cited for having tolling on only the Evergreen/520 bridge was that it was at maximum capacity and the toll would help drivers find another less-traveled path. Slapping tolls on I-90 would undercut that rationale.
Moreover, there is no other, less-traveled path. All roads lead to congestion. Seattle traffic was recently heralded as the ninth worst in the nation.
The 520 bridge is on target for its revenue projections, but even then the state is close to $1.5 billion short. This shortfall, which the new tolls are designed to cover, is no surprise and should have been addressed at the outset. Thus, it seems like the new toll ways are just another opportunity for revenue.
Few can argue that the state does not need new revenues to address maintenance and expansion of our existing transportation systems. But call it what it is — a disguised tax, targeted to only a select few users.
A true user tax should apply to everyone behind a wheel headed to Seattle — not only the drivers from Issaquah, Sammamish, Bellevue, Snoqualmie and North Bend, but also those from Federal Way and Everett.
A more comprehensive program could allow additional revenues, and still let the tolls on each individual road be lower. It could result in a more fair structure and more balanced traffic flow.
Legislators need to put the brakes on further discussions about extending tolls on highways, unless they are prepared to extend those tolls in all directions.