Washington state OKs tolls for road, bridge work

| 5/31/2011

Two new laws in Washington state are touted as ways to improve travel times in east King County.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law one bill – SB5700 – to establish toll rates on the state Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington. The second bill – HB1382 – authorizes express toll lanes on Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Interstate 5 at Lynnwood. The affected route stretches 40 miles.

Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said the toll revenues will pay for a much-needed replacement bridge for SR 520 and improvements for I-405.

“Our infrastructure is outdated,” Clibborn said in a previous statement. “These two corridors are among the most congested in the state, and as east King County continues to grow, the problem will only get worse unless we do something.”

The new law authorizes variable toll rates on the 520 bridge to pay for a replacement crossing. Tolling is expected to pay for about one-quarter of the $4.6 billion project. The project is about $2 billion shy of needed funding.

In an effort to help generate revenue to pay for the planned expansion of I-405, high-occupancy vehicle lanes in the northern part of the corridor will be converted into toll lanes. Multiple passenger vehicles will continue to have free access to the two lanes in each direction while single-occupant vehicles could use the lanes for a fee.

The toll rate will vary according to traffic conditions. General purpose, or free lanes, cannot be converted to express toll lanes.

A similar system is in place on state Route 167 between Auburn and Renton.

A provision in the law allows the state to shut down toll collection on I-405 after two years if not enough money is being raised.

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

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.