Tolling 520

One of the issues that must be resolved this year is a plan to generate enough money to pay for the SR 520 bridge replacement project. There is no way to do this without tolling the 520 bridge. I am unhappy about this, but it is a reality we must deal with. It’s a complex problem – we need to balance the interests of lots of parties and come up with a plan that can move forward. We get closer and closer every year, but I have to say that I have a lot of frustration at the glacial pace of decision-making. (This is a personal problem – I’m not sufficiently “Northwest” in loving process, despite having spent more than half my life here, and most of the adult portion of it.)

Rep. Clibborn, the chair of the transportation committee in the House introduced a bill (HB 2211) that allows tolling on 520, which is a key part of moving forward. I’m OK with this concept, but I would like to see the entire plan before I move forward. I will vote NO on the bill as it is currently written. To be fair, Rep. Clibborn has proposed a substitute bill to the first draft that is more balanced, but I’m still not there.

To get background on the tolling problem, including projections of how much revenue can be raised with different options you should read the final report of the tolling implementation committee. They have a website www.build520.org that has lots of information about the possible choices.

HB 2211 implements Option 6 in the final report. I do not believe this is the best option – I think we should implement option 9, one that tolls both 520 and I-90. It generates enough revenue to build the bridge, prevents horrendous diversion to the I-90 bridge that would turn it into a parking lot, and is a more balanced look at the entire regional East-West corridor. It’s supported by most of the Eastside cities. One of our biggest concerns is the traffic congestion that diversion would cause on 405, which is already congested at rush hour, and on Bellevue Way, which often backs up from I-90 to the Chevron station, and sometimes all the way to Bellevue High School.

Rep. Eddy and I will introduce a bill next week that implements option 9. We can’t just modify the existing bill because it has a title that restricts it to only tolling 520. Unlike the US Congress we cannot make random amendments to bills – they have to be related to the topic in the bill and described by the title of the bill. Crafting titles is somewhat of a legisaltive art.

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.

3 Comments on "Tolling 520"

  1. Patrick Boyd | March 30, 2009 at 12:00 am |

    Ross, this is encouraging news indeed. The link you posted is very informative. I’d resigned myself that we were going to be stuck with an ill-conceived 520 toll with grave unintended consequences. Thanks for your work, I know it’s frustrating you to move so slow, but cinch ’em up and power through it, the end is near. Just one more month to go….

  2. These bills are “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB) and are consequently exempt from cutoffs.

    I introduced the bill today. It’s HB 2319. You can look it up here – the documents on it should be available in a day or so.

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2319&year=2009

  3. Rep. Hunter,
    This is very encouraging news but I thought time was up for the introduction of new bills this session. Tolling to build a bridge is nothing to be unhappy about. Not only is it a fair and proven way in this State to fund bridge construction a permanent system of variable rate tolling on HOT lanes is progressive highway management.

    I fully agree that tolling must be on both bridges. As I’m sure you are aware the tolls on I-90 have nothing to do with funding for 520. They must be used for maintenance and improvements on I-90; for which there is no shortage of need (expansion joints anyone?). Please make sure in presenting your legislation, the title seems all so important, that this fact is emphasized. Also make it abundantly clear that free options to cross I-90 will still exist and tolling in the form of HOT lanes only increase peoples choices.

    Bernie Hayden
    Bellevue, Bridle Trails neighborhood

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