I-90 tolling plan draws local concerns
February 26, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
The city of Issaquah may not have an official stance on Interstate 90 tolling yet, but some of its citizens do.
In a letter to the state’s Department of Transportation, Issaquah’s mayor and City Council wrote that the city would not say whether or not Interstate 90 should be tolled until after the DOT is done with an environmental assessment. However, the city does have ideas about what should happen if tolls go in.
“There should be equity for all users of the I-90 corridor,” the letter read. “There should not be populations that are exempted from tolling, thereby receiving public benefit at no cost to them.”
“The city is in opposition to the tolling of off-ramps and on-ramps in the city of Issaquah, specifically exit 13, exit 15, exit 17 and exit 18. It would be inequitable to toll these ramps unless every ingress or egress from an interstate was tolled across the state.”
Other positions outlined in the letter include using part of the money collected from I-90 tolls to improve the interstate’s corridor and using a portion of the revenues for mass transit. The city also requested that the next time DOT holds public scope meetings, Issaquah should be included as a venue.
Before the letter was sent, the Issaquah City Council held a public hearing Feb. 19 on the matter. Included in the crowd of about a dozen people was DOT representative Paul Arnold, who came to observe. All five people who got up to testify spoke out against the toll.
Among those was Connie Marsh, who owns a vintage clothing store on Gilman Boulevard. She explained that many of her customers drive from Seattle, and proving to them that good vintage pieces could be found on the Eastside didn’t happen overnight.
“You add tolls and you increase the barrier that we have spent a long time trying to eradicate,” Marsh said. “Unless you make you bus service every 15 minutes with great signage everywhere, then you are just going to separate the east and west side again.”
Michael Beard, an Issaquah property owner, said he was disappointed when he read the city’s letter.
“It reads to me like condoning this toll. I ask you to represent us. I haven’t heard anyone represent us,” he said.
Beard estimated the tolls would cost him and his wife $2,000 to $4,000 per year and said while his family could absorb that cost, the average worker could not.
“I challenge you to consider who you represent and what these costs mean to us,” he said.
Councilman Tola Marts said that the letter is useful because it lets the DOT know where Issaquah’s priorities are. He added, though, that he is personally opposed to the tolls.
“My biggest problem with this is that it is, yet again, another regressive tax,” Marts said. “Putting more taxation on the backs of our workers and businesses is a bad move.”
He ended by explaining that he supports the letter but urges individuals to let their opinions be known.
Councilwoman Eileen Barber agreed that it was important to let the state know about Issaquah’s concerns, especially the dangerous impacts, she said, that tolling on- and off-ramps would have on the community.
At this point, the city will not take a formal position, but as the discussion goes forward, perhaps the city will take a position on behalf of the community, Councilman Joshua Schaer said.
The council voted unanimously to approve the letter and send it to the DOT. The complete letter can be found online at www.issaquahwa.gov/documentcenter/view/1692.