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State seeking comments on I-90 bridge tolls

The Washington State Department of Transportation is considering tolls on the Interstate 90 bridge crossing as they look for ways to meet a $1.4 billion funding gap facing the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge project as they begin work on a environmental study of the project.

The Department is seeking public comment on scope of the environmental assessment through Feb. 22.

Communications Manager Colleen Gants was in front of the Renton City Council Monday with an update presentation on the Department's plans for the future of the "Cross-Lake Washington Corridor."

According to Gants, the transportation department is meeting estimates on tolling money from the 520 bridge, which began issuing tolls for crossing in 2010, but overall funding for the new bridge is still falling short and the legislature has authorized the department to study the possibility of placing tolls on the I-90 span to help make up the difference.

"They act as one corridor," Gants said. "We need them each to get across the lake."

According to Gants, since tolling went into effect, traffic is down approximately 33 percent on the 520 bridge. Travel times are also faster by an average of five minutes during peak periods.

In that time, traffic on I-90 has increased by 11 percent and it takes an average of four minutes longer to cross during peak hours.

"It's taking a little longer to get across the (I-90) bridge," she said, adding that the increase was "not a surprise."

Both of those meet or beat traffic forecast estimates, according to Gants.

The estimated coat of the bridge replacement is $4.3 billion, $2.72 billion of which is presently funded.

The legislature is looking toward tolls on the I-90 bridge to make up the difference.

Gants said the environmental assessment being conducted would not be a "typical" one and instead focus on "environmental justice," to address the issue of fairness and adverse impacts on any particular community or group, such as low-income residents.

The environmental assessment will also look at land use, air quality, greenhouse gases, and cultural and historic resources, among others.

The department will be accepting public comment on the scope of the study, especially information that helps them form and complete their analysis, such as comments that identify locations and sources of information for analysts to use (such as a vantage point for evaluating visual quality) or identifying the ways the analysis should be conducted (such as time periods and locations to watch for traffic diversions).

For more information or to make comment, visit http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/I90/OnlineScoping.htm.

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