Tolling opponents hope to qualify initiative to ban tolls on I-90

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. -- Those who oppose tolling on I-90 are pushing to get an initiative on the November ballot that would ban tolls on all Washington interstates.

"They need to keep their hands off of tolling the interstate," said Elizabeth Campbell of The Democracy Workshop.

Fighting words from the driving force behind the anti-tolling initiative. The state insists it has no choice but to rely on tolling to help pay for transportation projects and to alleviate congestion.

"WSDOT always has choices," Campbell said. "In life, we all have choices. They're far from being forced to levy tolls."

The non-profit Democracy Workshop is hoping to enact an outright ban tolling on all interstates that run through Washington.

It could mean a financial roadblock for at least three state projects -- the state is considering tolling I-90 to pay for unfunded portions of construction on SR-520. The initiative could also jeopardize tolling planned for an express HOT lane on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood, and for a new Columbia River crossing bridge that would connect Oregon and Washington.

Campbell insists the federal interstates are the economic backbone of our state; and that they must be free and efficient.

But Reema Griffith, Executive Director of the State's Transportation Commission, says there is a price to pay to have a better commute.

She says she knows tolling impacts individual budget but she insists so does sitting in traffic.

In a statement, she fired back at the initiative's organizers: "The only way we can continue to address growing populations and growing demands for a more reliable and efficient transportation system is that we will need to rely on ourselves to fund the needed improvements."

The Democracy Workshop fears if voters don't put the brakes on tolls now, there will be more down the road.

"You want to stop it now rather than later when you probably won't be able to catch it," Campbell said.

The group needs 325,000 signatures to get it on the November ballot. The measure would ban tolls, but would consider tolling on case-by-case basis.

You can also weigh in on tolling on I-90.