Traffic volume on SR 520 bridge down after tolling

By Land Line staff | Monday, January 09, 2012

After an initial falloff in the number of vehicles using the State Route 520 floating bridge in Seattle when the new tolling system went into effect, traffic is starting to return to the bridge.

Washington state Department of Transportation reports that 59,200 toll transactions were processed on Thursday, Jan. 5. That is the most transactions since the toll went into effect on Dec. 29, 2011, yet it is only 59 percent of the amount of traffic before the tolls were in place.

As expected, Interstate 90’s traffic has increased by 14 percent with travel delays during peak commute times – although the DOT also blames collisions on I-90 for part of the delays.

Seattle’s floating bridge dates back to 1963. Officials estimate they’ll need to spend $4.65 billion to replace it and make additional improvements to SR 520 between Interstate 5 and SR 202.

The new toll took effect Dec. 29, 2011.

A five-axle truck crossing between midnight and 5 a.m. pays no toll. Non-peak traffic times such as 5 to 6 a.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. on weekdays carry a truck toll of $4 to $7.75 depending on the payment method the customer chooses. Peak times of 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. will cost truckers between $8.75 and $12.50 depending on the choice of payment. Weekend rates range from free to $9.25.

Seattle received a federal grant in 2007 to implement “congestion pricing” to help manage traffic levels and raise revenue.

For those who use the bridge and pay the toll, having a “Good to go!” pass from the state DOT is the cheapest method. Rates with the pass range from free overnight to a peak price of $8.75 during rush hours.

Without a “Good to go!” pass, a customer will be charged the toll-by-plate rate, which involves a camera system and invoices sent to vehicle owners. Toll-by-plate customers pay 25 cents more per toll than the “Good to go!” pass rate.

Then there are the processing fees. A customer must add a $3.50 processing fee per invoice if paying through the mail, while a customer who sets up a pre-pay account will pay a fee of $3 per invoice.

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