First SR520, now I-90: Tolling BC students to death

i-90-mercer-island-seattleAny of you out there who commute to school every day, listen up; the state of Washington would very much like to add yet another toll to one of their bridges, and I guarantee it will affect you, and more so than you might think, should you simply skim over the proposition. The SR-520 Tolling Implementation Committee is evaluating options to implement tolling on I-90 from Seattle to Bellevue, and vice versa. I am absolutely outraged and I think so should you. The proposal is for both bridges to be tolled at half the rate currently in effect when crossing the 520 floating bridge. Did somebody tell you that this toll would alleviate traffic and the customary gridlock on I-90 caused by implementing the 520 toll in Dec. 2011?  According to a study by the 520 Tolling Implementation Committee, “tolling will divert almost no traffic (5%) to I-90 if SR 520 alone is tolled and I-90 is not tolled.” In other words, no matter if you toll one or the other or both bridges from the Eastside into Seattle and vice versa, the only “decrease” in traffic you are likely to see is people unable to afford daily round-trips.

As seen on, the average per capita income in Seattle is roughly $30,000 per year.  Daily tolls as they currently stand are $7 for a round trip at peak hours with a Good-to-Go! pass, and $10 if you pay by mail.  At $7 per day, a commuter would spend $1820 per year on tolls alone assuming one round trip per day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks per year.  That’s 6% of the average person’s annual income.  That said, I certainly did not make anywhere close to $30,000 last year, and I have the sneaking suspicion the majority of students here at BC are in the same boat. For those of us who earn near minimum wage, you’d be losing two hours of every average eight hour shift you work.

Of course, when you have a little Good-to-Go! pass sitting on your windshield, driving over the bridge is as swift and mindless as the little blue flash of light that’s emitted when passing the toll point; but take away the Good-to-Go! pass, and imagine having to dig that $6-7 out of your wallet or purse every day to get to school and/or work and back, and toss that out the window as you drive over the bridge.  You’re going to be paying money you would otherwise use for tuition, books or even your car payment!

Furthermore, the toll on the 520 floating bridge is obvious and straightforward; it benefits itself.  The toll on I-90 would only go to pour more money into the 520 floating bridge, and do nothing for the road on which the toll is being enforced.  Interstates are federally funded and cared for. Also, taxpayers already pay for the 520 bridge, in addition to the tolls they pay when driving over it! And any downplay of the risk of increasing toll prices is absurd.  The 520 bridge has been tolled for just over a year, and has already seen a 2.5% increase; I-90 will inevitably follow suit should we allow the go-ahead on attempts to toll the bridge.

I encourage everyone at BC to take up an invested interest in this proposal, contact your representatives or the governor, raise questions and voice concerns.  Failure to do so could prove to be tragically detrimental to the Bellevue College community, its commuter student based, and most importantly, as students, your future financial ability to continue your education at the Bellevue campus.