The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is seeking comments on a proposal to turn a portion of Interstate 90 into a toll road. The 30-day comment period began Tuesday, Jan. 22 and lasts to Feb. 22, and is part of a study that will assess the potential environmental and social effects of tolling Interstate 90 between Seattle and Bellevue.

The state Legislature directed the WSDOT to conduct an environmental assessment of the potential effects of tolling I-90 as a way to generate revenue for the State Route 520 bridge replacement. The SR 520 bridge project has a funding gap of approximately $1.4 billion. Public comments will help determine the “scope” or range of issues covered in the assessment.

The proposed project includes plans to implement all-electronic tolling on I-90 between Interstate 5 and Interstate 405. Tolls on I-90 would be collected using the state’s “Good To Go!” system and would operate similar to SR 520 tolls. Tolling I-90 will also help alleviate congestion on I-90 between I-5 and I-405 in the Cross-Lake Washington Corridor.

The legislature has not yet authorized tolls on I-90 and an environmental assessment (EA), following National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines, will help inform their decision-making.

I-90 tolls have been discussed since 2006 as a way to help fill the SR 520 funding gap if WSDOT is unable to secure enough funding from other sources. In addition, the 2008 SR 520 Toll Implementation Committee and the 2009 SR 520 Legislative Working Group — both directed by the legislature to review toll implementation strategies — analyzed tolling I-90.

“The NEPA environmental assessment’s comment period gives us a chance to speak with people interested in the I-90 corridor, engaging I-90 drivers to ensure they are informed and have their voices heard,” said Craig Stone, WSDOT Toll Division assistant secretary. “Scoping is an important first step in the environmental assessment process, so now’s the time to share your thoughts about I-90 tolling.” 

The public comment period ends midnight Feb. 22. An online open house for public comment is available at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/i90/onlinescoping.

Those interested may also submit comments by e-mail at: I90EAcomments@wsdot.wa.gov, or by mail to: Angela Angove, 999 Third Ave., Suite 2200, Seattle, WA 98104. Mailed comments must be postmarked by Feb. 22, 2013.