Washington governor unveils tolling plan for Route 520 bridge

| 1/18/2008

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has announced a funding proposal that would authorize putting tolls on a bridge over Lake Washington between Seattle and Bellevue to help pay for a replacement span.

Gregoire said she wants a new six-lane floating bridge that carries state Route 520 over Lake Washington. The governor said about half of the financing to replace the existing span would come from tolls while the rest would come from existing state and federal sources.

The existing state Route 520 Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is 44 years old. It is deemed at risk of collapsing if an earthquake or major windstorm hit, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.

A new design of the bridge that carries about 160,000 vehicles each day would include two general-purpose lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lane in each direction.

Gregoire wants lawmakers to approve variable toll rates on both the existing span and the proposed span. The revenue would cover about half of the $4 billion replacement cost.

The governor’s plan doesn’t specify the amount of tolls on the new span although a recent study suggested that tolls could start around $3 per trip to cross the bridge, in 2007 dollars, once the span opens in about 2018.

Drivers would be responsible for a similar fee to cross the existing span, the study recommended.

Gregoire’s initiative now heads to the Legislature for consideration. Early indications from transportation leaders at the statehouse are favorable for toll legislation.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor