Opinion

Eyman Says I-1125 Isn't a Radical Change. He's Wrong.

By Josh Feit July 22, 2011

Tim Eyman has "corrected" me a few times for reporting that his latest initiative, I-1125—which qualified for the ballot today—mandates that revenue from tolling can only be spent on roads and not on transit.

Eyman says state law already mandates that tolling revenue can only go to roads and not transit.

Apparently, with no ulterior motive (like, say, preventing tolling money from funding Sound Transit on behalf of the initiative's $1 million funder, anti-light rail Eastside developer Kemper Freeman), Eyman just innocently wanted to reiterate that point. I-1125 says: "State government, the department of transportation, and other agencies may not transfer or use gas-tax-funded or toll-funded lanes on state highways for non-highway purposes."

But that would be a change. A dramatic one. Current state law is clear: Tolling money can be used "to provide for the operations of conveyances of people or goods." This is the legislature's fancy way of articulating a basic tenet that transit advocates have been pushing for years—roads aren't just for cars anymore.

Legislation passed last year carves out an exemption to that rule for SR520, mandating that tolling on that road cannot be used for transit. Eyman's initiative would extend that exemption to all state highways.

For example, the HOT Lane pilot project on 167—the highway just south of 405 through Renton, Kent, Auburn, and into Pierce County—is funded by toll revenue, which could be spent on transit in the corridor. If Eyman's measure passed, that would no longer be the case.
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