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Tolls on I-90 focus of meetings in Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island

Tolling on I-90 might be the way chosen to make up a funding shortfall for the 520 Bridge. (AP Photo/file)

The new highway 520 bridge is under construction but hanging over the project to improve the Seattle to Bellevue corridor is a funding shortfall of $1.4 billion.

Community meetings are scheduled this week in Mercer Island, Bellevue and Seattle, and John White, with the State Transportation Department told Seattle City Councilmembers Monday that adding tolling to I-90 is a good possibility.

“We are looking at full tolling of I-90,” said White. “Our directive from the legislature was to generate revenue that could help fill the 520 funding gap so [just] express toll lanes on I-90 don’t get you even close.”

White said that tolling of State Route 520 across the floating bridge is going “quite well” in the first year of operation, saying that the forecasting of revenue and operations is meeting or beating expectations. But projections leave a funding gap that can’t be covered with 520 tolls and gas tax revenue.

“We have a variety of state and federal sources, a variety of toll-based sources, both state and federal that have been leveraged in funding 520 to this point but, again, there is a $1.4 billion shortfall,” explained White.

White said the legislature has directed the state Transportation Department to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of tolling I-90 between Seattle and Bellevue for two purposes, “to raise revenue, capital revenue, to complete 520, as well as to manage congestion within the I-90 corridor and re-balance, essentially, the cross-lake corridor traffic operations.”

Adding tolls to I-90 would require approval from both the state legislature and the federal government and could happen as soon as next year. Tuesday’s meeting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center.

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