Eastside state representatives vote no on 520 tolling legislation

Reps. Eddy and Hunter say legislation does not address key issues related to funding, process or Eastside projects

For immediate release

April 17, 2009

OLYMPIA – The Legislature today narrowly approved HB 2211 which authorizes early tolls to finance the SR 520 floating bridge and gives the Washington State Department of Transportation authority to spend toll-backed bonds for the floating bridge portion of the project.

Eastside state representatives Deb Eddy (D-Kirkland) and Ross Hunter (D-Medina) both voted no on the legislation. While they are happy to see the legislation now go to the Senate for consideration, they say they’ll press for changes that address critical issues the current legislation ignores.

“I agree that early tolling is a good strategy and I appreciate the efforts that so many have put into crafting this legislation,” says Eddy. “But the bill as it is written today is not sound public policy. We are preparing to launch one of the most expensive and important transportation projects in our state and this legislation falls far short of addressing key issues involving process, funding for Eastside projects and dealing with I-90.”

Hunter agrees that much remains to be done.

“Our Eastside project is ready to go and this legislation does not allow any of the early tolling revenue to fund it,” says Hunter. “It is clear that tolling 520 alone will not raise enough revenue to completely fund the project, and I’m still concerned about traffic diversion to I-90 turning that bridge into a parking lot. My biggest concern is by blocking the use of toll revenues for construction work on the Eastside projects we could wind up with a tollbooth to a floating dock, with no throughput improvement.”

Eddy and Hunter proposed alternative legislation, HB 2319, earlier in the session that included triggers for when tolling on the I-90 floating bridge would occur. Eddy says some kind of mechanism for tolling on I-90 must be in place to ensure the Legislature can readily respond to issues regarding revenue and traffic diversion if necessary. In addition, she says the legislation must include a more responsible decision-making process.

“As we gear up to pour billions of dollars into a project that will affect our communities for decades to come, it’s critical that we show the wisdom and leadership necessary to bring the right people to the right conversations, make sound decisions and get this entire corridor upgraded,” says Eddy.  “The legislation as written sets up a process better suited to a political event. I want a process that ensures better – and hopefully, quicker – decisions throughout the life of the project.”

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.