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Luke Burbank: Why tolling I-90 is unfair

KIRO Radio's Luke Burbank argues tolling I-90 unfairly limits access to thousands of struggling drivers who can't afford it. (Dave Ross/KIRO Radio image)

While many Mercer Islanders are up in arms over talk of tolling I-90 between Seattle and the Eastside, KIRO Radio’s Luke Burbank argues the toll would be unfair to thousands of others on both sides of the water.

The state is considering the tolls to help cover a $1.4 billion shortfall on the new SR 520 bridge. But Burbank calls it an “access issue,” arguing many simply couldn’t afford what could mean possibly $10 a day.

“I mean that’s a couple hundred bucks a month. I mean there are a lot of people that the line – and I have been this person at times in my life – the line between making it, paying your bills, is $200 or $100 every month.”

Burbank says it’s only fair to continue allowing at least one toll-free road across Lake Washington, rather than requiring drivers to head through Renton or Kenmore to avoid the tolls.

He insists he’s not opposed to increasing other fees like car tabs or taxes that take people’s finances into consideration, like the housekeepers who have to travel from South Seattle to a luxury hotel in Bellevue.

“If you drive a nice car, a $40,000, $50,000, $70,000 car, I think you can afford to pay a little more on your tabs than somebody who’s driving an old beater,” Burbank says. “You can’t just increase the gas tax because a lot of people have to drive far to work and can’t afford it.”

But what about commuters in other parts of our state like those forced to pay tolls crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or riding ferries across the Puget Sound?

Burbank, whose parents live in Silverdale, argues that’s different because they knew “what they were getting into” when they moved there.

“I think just basically putting a huge sign up on Lake Washington that says ‘You shall not pass unless you have $10 you can spare right now,’ I worry what that means for access.”

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