In keeping with STB’s generally technocratic ethos, I think tolling I-90 is good policy, not to fund more megaprojects but because it will improve travel times both for people who choose to pay the toll and (more importantly) for transit riders that will no longer have to deal with chronic congestion. Olympia’s tolling rhetoric never seemed to grasp this and viewed it as a purely revenue-generating measure.
However, the Times reported ($) last month that the governor’s transportation package, by funding the new 520 bridge with other revenues, would also “abandon the idea of tolling the I-90 Mercer Island floating bridge.” While I still think this is a bad policy, I surprised myself by not being particularly concerned about it.
That’s not just because of skepticism about the package’s chances. A toll on I-90 a few years ago, now, and for the next few years would indeed alleviate the suffering of transit riders. Processes being what they are, however, any plausible toll would probably begin about when two-way HOV operations start on the bridge in 2017. At that point general-purpose lane congestion becomes theoretically irrelevant to bus riders; six years after that, and East Link will make it entirely irrelevant.
Stepping beyond transit for a moment, it would be great for freight to flow freely and for people to choose between an inexpensive but fast transit ride and a more expensive, even faster drive. But I can also accept a cheap, fast transit ride vs. a cheap slog through traffic. If freight and SOV interests can’t, they certainly have the platform to demand what they need without transit advocates concerning themselves with it.