Mercer Island Parishoner Implores City Council to Consider Effects of Tolling on I-90

The following is a letter from Mercer Island Presbyterian Church member Carl Dodrill to the Mercer Island City Council, presented on Jan. 22.

To assist in estimating the effects of an I-90 toll upon the faith community of Mercer Island, all churches were contacted and each was asked to provide the percentage of their congregation which live off the island.  Nine congregations provided usable estimates of off-islanders and they were MI Congregational, MI Covenant, MI Presbyterian, Holy Trinity Lutheran, Redeemer Lutheran, Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, Emmanuel Episcopal, St. Monica Catholic Church, and First Church of Christ, Scientist. 

Results showed that from 16% to 68% of MI congregations consist of off-island people.  The average was 39% and the median was 40%.  Notable is the fact that the two largest congregations (Herzl-Ner Tamid, St. Monica) serve approximately 2,244 families (not individuals) of which 56% (1,256 families) come from off the island.  The smaller congregations have fewer off-island congregants.  Considered together, the percentage of total worshippers which are off-island appears to be in the 45 to 50% range. 

Implications:  If 1/3 of the off-islanders stopped coming to houses of worship on MI with the initiation of tolling (just as the traffic on SR 520 diminished 1/3 when tolling started there), the congregations could decrease by an average of about 15%.  Similar  budgetary losses would certainly lead to the cutting of services and to a loss of staff. Parochial schools would be hit especially hard.  Further, volunteerism within the churches would decrease and the off-island charitable outreach work often done by retired and limited-income people might nearly collapse.  Municipal governments do not have the resources to replace what the faith community provides.

Conclusions:  The adverse effects of tolling upon the faith community of Mercer Island would be far reaching.  Notably diminished attendance, services, staff, outreach, and  charitable work must be expected with tolling.  Sadly, church budgets are already so tight on the island that diminished funds could threaten the very existence of some of our houses of worship.  Please do not support I-90 tolling.


Carl Dodrill

(Ed. Note: The letter above is the opinion of Carl Dodrill, an active member of Mercer Island Presbyterian Church and Mercer Island resident, with concerns about the potential impacts of I-90 tolling upon the Mercer Island faith community. It is not intended to speak for any other body, such as the Presbyterian Church or the Mercer Island Clergy Association.)

Toll I-90 February 05, 2013 at 03:24 AM
Tolls will be minimal on weekends. This whole story is a red herring. If parishioners don't come to M.I., they'll go to their local houses of worship. They will still do outreach/charitable work in those communities. http://tolli-90.com
Kendall Watson February 05, 2013 at 05:32 AM
It's a letter to the editor, not a story (ergo, opinion). I think it's fair to say that the impact will be the least on the weekends, when most churches on Mercer Island hold services. Nonetheless, we're talking about a toll of roughly $2.50-$4.00 each way for midday Sunday, if you compare it to the SR 520 rates. WSDOT has repeatedly said tolls on I-90, if approved, would mirror SR 520. The proper question might be, Is $5-$8 of tolls every Sunday enough to dissuade some of the off-island parishoners from coming to Mercer Island?
Publius February 05, 2013 at 06:21 AM
Toll I-90, you admit that there will be an impact. And you call it a red herring, but based on measured impact of traffic on 520 and the number of off-island people coming to houses of worship on this island it isn't a minor thing. You might not care about such things, but it isn't trivial as you like to suggest. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/TollRates.htm Yes the weekend rates are slightly lower on SR520, but those rates are going up over the coming years and they are not 'minimal'.
Carla Kepler February 05, 2013 at 04:43 PM
This is an excellent overview of one more of the "hidden" outcomes that tolling will have on Mercer Island. Tolling I-90 is NOT the same as tolling 520. There is an entire community in the middle of I-90 that has no choice as to which highway to use. Our faith community is a vital and important part of our community.


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