Mayor: Kenmore 'feeling the crunch' from floating bridge tolls

KENMORE, Wash. - Tolling on the Highway 520 Bridge is clogging roads in one local community as motorists drive around Lake Washington rather than fork over their dollars to drive across the floating span.

And now officials in that community - Kenmore, at the north end of the lake - say they are worried the problem will get even worse if tolls are placed in Interstate 90.

Kenmore Mayor David Baker says Highway 522 through town is already seeing an increase in traffic, creating more congestion and raising safety concerns.

"We all feel the crunch from toll avoiders," he says.

The traffic in Kenmore has increased at least 10 percent since tolling began on the 520 Bridge, according to Baker.

And residents share his concerns about potential problems from increasing congestion.

"Traffic is going to get a lot worse," says motorist Gaylen Matlock of nearby Bothell. "It's going to take longer to get home, longer to get to work. The roads are going to have a lot more wear and tear."

Highway 522, the Sammamish River Bridge and local streets are the hardest hit.

Kenmore city officials are now asking for mitigation resources from the state to address the impacts from the tolls.

"We just don't have the resources, being a smaller community, to be able to pay for all of the people that are transiting our community," says Mayor Baker.

The money would pay for maintenance of roads and help get traffic through town efficiently.

"I think that more people will drive this (way) instead of having to go across the bridge," says Donna Vanommeren of Bothell. "I don't go across the bridge because I don't want to pay the toll."

The travel times in Kenmore have increased so much that locals are even looking for alternative routes. Some are now taking the bus to get around.

"I think the bus is the best way," says Beker Tabakha. "I work downtown so I have to do this every day. So it's really much better than driving your car."

Meanwhile, the mayor says he just wants their voices heard.

"We understand the problems the Legislature feels. We have a lot of roads, with a lot of serious problems," he says.

The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed I-90 tolls until Feb. 22. To comment, you can fill out an online form, send an email or mail in a form. Details are at the state Department of Transportation's website.
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