Though we’ve agreed that it’s premature to make any kind of definitive conclusion on long-term travel trends post-tolling, one thing is clear– I-90 has begun to adopt 520’s notorious congestion, something that was, of course, to be expected. However, with the R8A Two-Way Transit & HOV project still incomplete and both directions on I-90 competing for the peak, 520 defectors have worsened an already fragile situation.
My bus, for example, has been slowed three times in the PM peak direction express lanes for the first time in recent memory. While the delay only adds up to a couple of minutes for me, the real losers are those using transit in the reverse-peak direction: eastbound in the morning and westbound in the afternoon, which currently has a measly transit mode share simply because the incentives to drive in that direction are far too great.
Of course, tolling just one segment over Lake Washington ignores the fact that both bridge corridors should be considered as part of a cross-lake system. This is a good financial argument for the State to make, too, because there won’t be enough toll revenue from 520 alone to finance the entirety of the bridge replacement. Though currently prohibited by State law, tolling I-90 to offset the funding shortfall can be allowed under an exemption granted by the Legislature.
The discussion around I-90 tolls hasn’t only been constrained to politicians, planners, and transit bloggers. Shortly after the 520 tolls commenced, an anonymous citizen started a Toll I-90 effort with an advocacy webpage and even merchandise to boot. Whether or not the State can muster up the political will to follow through, however, is a much different story.