Looking at tolling I-90

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

 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.




24 comments:

TEG said...

As far as I'm aware, because I-90 is an existing structure, you cannot toll it under the Interstate Highway Act. A better answer would be to lower the tolls on 520 to a more reasonable level, which would encourage more people to use it and thereby increasing revenue. There is a law in Supply and Demand about diminishing returns, and you hit it on day one.

Anonymous said...

No longer true about tolling, "Policies on toll facilities and Interstate Highways have since changed. The Federal Highway Administration has allowed some states to collect tolls on existing Interstate Highways, while a recent extension of I-376 included a section of Pennsylvania Route 60 that was tolled by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission before receiving Interstate designation. Also, newer toll facilities (like the tolled section of I‑376, which was built in the early 1990s) must conform to Interstate standards. A new addition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 2009 requires a black-on-yellow "Toll" sign to be placed above the Interstate trailblazer on Interstate Highways that collect tolls."

Anonymous said...

No longer true about tolling; exceptions have been made. "Policies on toll facilities and Interstate Highways have since changed. The Federal Highway Administration has allowed some states to collect tolls on existing Interstate Highways, while a recent extension of I-376 included a section of Pennsylvania Route 60 that was tolled by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission before receiving Interstate designation. Also, newer toll facilities (like the tolled section of I‑376, which was built in the early 1990s) must conform to Interstate standards. A new addition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 2009 requires a black-on-yellow "Toll" sign to be placed above the Interstate trailblazer on Interstate Highways that collect tolls."

Anonymous said...

"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."

Gee what a shocker. If you think we as a people are stupid enough to not see this as an engineered attempt to enact tolls on those two bridges it shows what contempt you have for the people of King County.

That aside, what is the benefit derived from these tolls? Business as usual? Or can you commit to a planning and execution of the construction of a light rail train running across one or both spans? If not then you can forget my support of it.

Anonymous said...

Next up, tolling for I-5 Ship Canal Bridge followed by Montlake and University Bridges. We'll soon be tolled for driving 10 blocks in our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I'll drive around. It'll still cost me less in gas. I'm not in such a hurry that I need submit to tolls that shouldn't apply. Until the government decides to add taxes to drivers of 405 just for the heck of it.

Sarah said...

This is a terrible idea. People have suffered enough in this economy and avoid 520, going out of their way to use I-90 instead. I rarely visit a close friend now because of the toll. Between the cost of gas, health insurance going up, and lower wages for us, it's just too much.

Hilltop Advocate said...

This is a great time to provide your input on the process. Some of the things WSDOT is studying will assess the potential environmental and social effects of tolling. Do you plan on sharing your comments for the official record? Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/i90/onlinescoping to comment.

Hilltop Advocate said...

I think this is a great opportunity to participate in the process. The study will assess the potential environmental and social effects of tolling. Provide an official comment www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/i90/onlinescoping

Jared Marino said...

While I understand the need for the new SR520 Bridge I completely oppose this as a viable option.

Taking the environment out of the equation- the social ramifications of this are disastrous for the Puget Sound. Already today there is a pseudo-rivalry between the west and east side of Lake Washington. I feel that tolling BOTH bridges between them is the final step towards economic and social decline for Seattle.

There are commuters for a reason because they choose to live and spend money in Seattle but work for Microsoft or one of the many large corporations on the east side.

What we may see is a massive migration of these highly paid and highly spending individuals OUT of Seattle and to the Eastside where it is more economically sound. For those who commute everyday. Assuming the toll is $3, that can cost the person who commutes each day upwards of $1500 per year.

It is working now only because the I-90 is that last bridge of hope.

Make no mistake, if the toll is in place commerce, shared business, and social interactions between the east and west side will be greatly effected.

Right now the behavioral change has been to use the 90 and cause more traffic, if tolling starts the behavioral change will be abstinence. In which case years from now you may not have as much need for a new 520 bridge at all.

WSDOT said...

Our tolling plans are no secret. You can check out the highways that will have tolls in the next few years on our tolling webpage. Future tolled roads include I-405 express toll lanes, SR 99 tunnel and the I-5 Columbia River Crossing.

Anonymous said...

While I'm not fond of the nickle and diming method of raising revenue, perhaps a toll will encourage commuters to take the bus, so reducing consumption and pollution.

LarryB said...

Just as long as you don't let Mercer Island people off the hook in both directions. It's bad enough that they get preferential access to the HOV lanes.

Anonymous said...

Between I-5 and I-405? More Likely between I-5 and Issaquah.

2013 Regular Session Senate Bill 5024, Section 305, Part 13

"(13) $4,999,997 of the motor vehicle account--federal appropriation and $200,000 of the motor vehicle account--state appropriation are provided solely for the I-90 Comprehensive Tolling Study and Environmental Review project (100067T). The department shall undertake a comprehensive environmental review of tolling Interstate 90 between Interstate 5 and Interstate 405 for the purposes of both managing traffic and providing funding for construction of the unfunded state route number 520 from Interstate 5 to Medina project. The environmental review must include significant outreach to potentially 18 affected communities. The department may consider traffic management options that extend as far east as Issaquah."

Anonymous said...

LarryB - you're misguided.

I lived on MI for years, and can tell you from firsthand experience that the State Patrol has no idea what the rules and regs are regarding HOV access on I-90 for MI residents.

I was ticketed in 2010 for an (inbound to MI) HOV violation coming off of 405. When I objected citing right of passage, the cop told me he wasn't sure what the rules were, but that i was a single occupant in an HOV lane.

I came to find out many months later through a different source that it is only outbound traffic that is coming off of MI that is allowed access to HOV. If you lived on MI you'd understand why.

ch

Anonymous said...

The idea that WA State DOT is incapable of servicing or improving its transportation infrastructure is no secret.

The fact of the matter is that you folks have been negligent in obtaining proper funding for decades. I can understand and support tolling for capital construction projects like the Narrows Bridge, which was essential for KP development.

Tolling the 520 bridge for maintenance just means that our government is ineffective at planning and budgeting. We are not the only state in the union that has bridges.

Tolling the I-90 bridge will bring massive congestion to every lateral roadway. It will functionally separate Eastside and Seattle for good. I already don't want to go downtown due to traffic. The only time I do is when I have to.

Apparently the good people in our state legislature have no clue about how to run a government.

Here's a tip:

We just passed legalization of Marijuana through state controlled sales channels. Figure out how to get it active ASAP.

There's your billion dollars a year in affected gap revenue - and that's probably a low side estimate.


Tip #2 is to have the good people from the legislature commute back and forth to Olympia from Bellevue or Seattle. everything looks great when your commute is down the street - no problem.

The problem isn't that there's no money. The problem is that the people running the budget won't give any to DOT. DOT only has the ability to afect change with those things that are within its own control - like tolling every road known to mankind.

So instead of finding a reasonable path, we subject the cummuting public to even more horrors.

My current commute is 43 miles each way. I average 1.5 to 1.75 hours each way. That means I'm averaging 20 mph. What the heck kind of benchmark is that to be proud of?

What a bunch of self-serving idiots.

Anonymous said...

NO I would advise not. Unless you want thousands of people to hate you guys than go for it. I agree with TEG and lower the tolls on 520..incredibly high...if it was lowered to 50 cents too a dollar per crossing you will find many more people crossing 520.

Anonymous said...

I want to chime in about the Interstate Highway Act. However, when it's the ONLY way in/out to a city it should not be tolled when no other parallel alternate exists. It boils down to extortion to visit friends/relatives.

Chuck InSeattle said...

I think this is a good idea. We have got to have money to pay for the new construction, and it makes sense to raise the money by charging the people who benefit from the improved roads -- the people who use them. This toll will place the burden on those who can afford it, and who benefit from the facilities it provides. I like the toll because 520 is now much less crowded and much safer to drive to and from work. If we can not pay for it, pretty soon we will not have it.

Anonymous said...

Why dont you add 1 more lane in each direction through downtown Seattle which is a "duh" move on WSDOT's part and so would be adding 1 lane in each direction on 405. Also you need to fix the Tacoma I-5 mess. Then you guys can start tolling for actually doing something that most people have to deal with. Not how are the people in Bellevue going to get to their jobs in Seattle which is what WSDOT only seems to care about besides the Columbia river bridge. Oh and re-pave the sections of I-5 that you said were in dire need of it, cause there are lots of those.

Unknown said...

Rather than tolling, WA should look into initiating a vehicle safety inspection. Testing could be conducted at Emissions Testing facilities already established.

Vehicles should be inspected/tested for equipment: cracked windshields, horns, brakes, tires, & basic vehicle integrity.

The age of the vehicle should be considered. Testing required more frequently, for older vehicles.

An appropriate fee to be established.

Anonymous said...

The inevitable increase in pressure on alternate routes is of major concern. I live in Shoreline, and we've already seen backups at the 130th & 145th St. Northbound exits increase to dangerous levels. That's only going to get worse if you toll I90. We need to suck it up, put in an equitable state income tax, and quit funding this state solely on the backs of the middle and working classes.

Michell, WSDOT Communications said...

@Anonymous on February 13, 2013 at 8:21:00 AM PST - We continue to monitor traffic and collaborate with local cities. We have not heard any concerns about increased traffic backups at those ramps from either the cities or the public. We looked at the before and after tolling traffic volumes on I-5 mainlines and ramps at the locations you mentioned. There were no big jumps in volumes since SR 520 tolling started. We also did a quick video study of yesterday’s traffic on the I-5 northbound 145th off ramp we didn’t see any extended backups. We have noticed increased travel volumes on I-5 but it is mostly focused through downtown Seattle.

Joel Johnston said...

I've not crossed 520 once since tolling started. Never will. Happy to drive to I-90, or to 522 to get to where I need to go.

I don't plan on EVER paying a toll for a road in this state. I pay for roads every day when I buy gas.

Lack of long term planning by DOT is what caused these issues.

Time for head of DOT to be an elected position, and get the Unions and Contractors out of their hip pocket.

 

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