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9611 SE 36th Street
Mercer Island, WA 98040
Phone: 206.275.7600
Fax: 206.276.7663
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I-90 Tolling Proposal

The State is proposing to impose tolls on I-90 to cover a $1.4 billion (and growing) budget shortfall on the portion of the SR 520 bridge project from I-5 to Lake Washington. The decision to toll I-90 is a decision that will be made by the State Legislature and must also be approved by the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA).   Because tolling will result in significant adverse impacts to residents, employees, the local economy, school district, City government, religious institutions, and all people who have no choice but to use I-90, the City is vigorously opposing I-90 tolling.

An overview of the City’s position on I-90 tolling issues can be viewed by clicking here.

Council Opposition to Tolling and City Work Plan

At its February 4, 2013 meeting, the City Council reaffirmed its opposition to tolling. The Council also authorized the expenditures to fund legal counsel, lobbyist, and experts to advise the City and advocate our interests at the regional, State and Federal levels.  At the March 4, 2013 meeting, the City Council unanimously adopted a Work Plan to guide its response to the State’s tolling proposal.

Click here to view the Final I-90 Tolling Work Plan

The City is responding to the tolling proposal on a number of fronts.  The City is actively engaged in WSDOT’s environmental study process, has initiated state and federal lobbying, coalition building with regional leaders, review of federal legal authority to toll an interstate to fund a State highway, and other actions that will help the City best respond to the State’s proposal.

WSDOT Environmental Study (EIS)

NEW - WSDOT Distributes Mail-in Travel Survey to Island Residents and Businesses
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has mailed out a survey to all Mercer Island residents and business owners asking about their use of Interstate 90. As part of this survey, residents will be asked to complete a week-long travel journal by recording their trips across the I-90 bridges from Sunday, November 17 through Saturday, November 23, 2013. For more information on the survey, visit the WSDOT tolling website.

EIS Public Comment Period and Meetings
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) recently completed a public scoping process for the now required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from October 7 to November 6, 2013. Public meetings were held as follows:
  • Bellevue: Thursday, October 10, 4-7 pm, Bellevue College
  • Mercer Island: Monday, October 21, 4:30 -8:30 pm, Mercer Island High School
  • Seattle: Wednesday, October 23, 4-7 pm, African American Museum
The WSDOT gathered public comments at these meetings, as well as via mail, email, and its website at  Even if you previously provided comments during WSDOT’s last public comment phase, your new comments counted as new testimony.
NEW - The City also submitted a scoping comment letter which can be viewed here.

EIS Background
The State Legislature has directed that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) conduct an environmental study of the impacts of tolling I-90. WSDOT initially began an Environmental Assessment (EA) study process. More information about this process is available at However, the City’s lobbyist worked closely with the legislature to help ensure tolling was adequately studied and the legislature has now mandated that a full environmental impact statement be completed. A bill initiated by Senator Litzow and supported by Representative Clibborn requiring a full Environmental Impact Statement of the I-90 tolling proposal passed the legislature. The legislation also requires that alternative funding sources (other than tolls) be studied. Click here to view the provision. The full transportation legislation can be accessed here.

On July 18, WSDOT released a revised Scoping Summary Report for the I-90 Cross-Lake Washington Tolling project. Scoping took place from January 22 to February 22 and the first summary report was published June 14. Revisions include 1) updated agency responses to our Participating Agency invitation letters from April 4, 2013 and 2) a more comprehensive list of organizations that provided comments during scoping. Click here to view the WSDOT webpage regarding the Scoping Summary Report.

The City submitted a letter to WSDOT and FHWA concerning the appropriate process for the now required EIS. The City letter advocates for a new round of scoping and public comment and also urges coordination with any regional study to be conducted by the Puget Sound Regional Council. You can view the letter here.

WSDOT has agreed with the City’s suggested direction in their response letter, which can be viewed here, and they will be conducting a new round of public comment. WSDOT plans to announce a timeline for the new EIS scoping and public comment period later this summer.

NEW - In advance of the WSDOT scoping process, the City and its legal counsel submitted a letter advocating for a broad scoping process and a focus on funding alternatives. Click here to view the letter.


Regional Tolling Study and Alternative Funding

Despite apparent plans to toll many of the regional roadways, the State has never conducted a comprehensive study of the impacts of tolling. Instead, the State is tolling one road at a time – a piecemeal approach that will increase congestion, divert traffic to other roadways, and adversely impact local communities. Tolling projects to date have created unanticipated consequences that will only worsen if the State does not take a more systematic approach.

To ensure that tolling is studied in a broader, system-wide manner and that alternative funding options are explored, the City has joined with other regional leaders in calling for a comprehensive regional tolling study. The City co-signed a letter with King County, Seattle, Bellevue, and others asking WSDOT to work with the Puget Sound Regional Council (the region’s planning agency) on a broader study of tolling and its impacts, which would include study of alternative revenue options. A copy of the letter may be viewed by clicking here.

On June 6, the City received a response letter, signed by both WSDOT and PSRC, indicating they are working on a draft scope, timeline and funding plan for such a study. Click here to review the letter. The study proposal will be reviewed by the PSRC’s elected leaders in July. Moving ahead with the study would be a positive step towards ensuring that tolling, and its impacts are studied in a holistic manner and that alternatives are considered. The City will continue to advocate that the PSRC study be well coordinated with the Environmental Impact Statement process regarding I-90.

FHWA Approval and Federal Legal Issues

Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) approval is necessary before the State may impose tolls on I-90.  However, after careful study by expert legal counsel in Washington, D.C., the City has concluded that tolling I-90 to pay for the SR 520 project conflicts with federal law.  An overview of the federal legal issues may be viewed by clicking here. The City's legal team and Tim Punke, a federal lobbyist working for the City, are coordinating outreach with FHWA and federal leaders.

In response to the State’s proposal, the City filed an initial letter with FHWA opposing approval of I-90 tolling. Click here to view the letter.  The City received and initial response from the FHWA. Click here to view the response letter.  The City submitted a follow up letter to FHWA requesting a meeting with top officials and setting out in more detail the legal reasons FHWA should not approve tolling of I-90. Click here to view a copy of the letter.  

The City then met with top federal officials in Washington, D.C. to discuss legal and policy concerns related to the State’s plan. Mayor Bassett, Councilmember Grady, and the Deputy City Manager met with the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the NEPA Compliance Director for the Environmental Protection Agency, Congressman Adam Smith, Congressman Dave Reichert, Congressman Rick Larsen, and Senator Maria Cantwell’s office.  In general, the meetings went well and federal officials are aware of the issues.  The FHWA provided assurances that they are well aware of the issues the City has raised, have not made any decisions about I-90, will complete an objective legal review of the State’s proposal, and will provide oversight to the State’s EIS process.   FHWA sees merit in the regional study being proposed to the PSRC.  The City has several follow up steps planned in response to what was learned in the D.C. meetings.

Congressman Adam Smith Expresses Constituents’ Concerns to US DOT and the Governor

Congressman Adam Smith sent a letter to Secretary LaHood of the United States Department of Transportation and a separate letter to Governor Inslee regarding I-90 tolling.  In his letter to Secretary LaHood, Congressman Smith raises concerns about the legality of tolling I-90 and the need to ensure a comprehensive environmental impact statement is conducted.   The letter to Governor Inslee encourages the State to consider all available options to ensure fair distribution of revenue collection across all residents of the State.   The City is very thankful to Congressman Smith for his support and look forward to continuing to work with him as he seeks to advocate for our interests and those of the region. 

Click here to view the letter to US DOT
Click here to view the letter to Governor Inslee

Congressman Dave Reichert Expresses Concerns to US DOT

Congressman Dave Reichert recently sent a letter to Anthony Foxx, the incoming Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, regarding I-90 tolling. In his letter, Congressman Reichert raises concerns about the potential impacts of tolling on commerce and the legality of tolling I-90. We are very thankful to Congressman Reichert for his support in addressing tolling and look forward to continuing to work with him as he seeks to advocate for our interests and those of the region. Click here to view the letter to US DOT

Litigation Counsel

In order to be prepared for the possibility that only through litigation will an equitable solution be achieved, the City has retained the law firm of Calfo Harrigan Leyh & Eakes, one of the region's best litigation firms. The firm will assist the City in analyzing potential litigation regarding the I-90 tolling proposal.

Council Updates

City staff provide regular updates to the City Council on tolling issues at each of its meetings.  Click on the links below to view status report presentations from past Council meetings:

Subscribe to City Updates

The City provides regular email updates regarding its work to address the tolling proposal to. If you would like to receive these updates, please email

Please be advised that, under State law, the city is required to disclose its email list (including your email address) to members of the public when requested for non-commercial purposes.

Your Input is Important

Your input on tolling is very important and will be used to help form the City's response to the State’s proposal.

To provide comments to the City of Mercer Island, please email
Please Note: submitting comments on the I-90 tolling proposal on this website will help the City represent Mercer Island’s interests, but is not a substitute for direct communication with the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration regarding the I-90 tolling proposal and National Environmental Policy Act compliance.
To contact WSDOT with comments or questions, please email Michelle Moulton at
To contact FHWA with comments or questions, please email:
Darren P. Timothy, Project Development Team Leader

Regina S McElroy, Director

Additional Information

Click here to view historical agreements and correspondence regarding Mercer Island and I-90.


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