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Tolls on 520: As High as $3.50

By Erica C. Barnett November 16, 2010

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the state transportation commission is recommending a one-way toll on 520 of $3.50. The $3.80 maximum cited in the previous version was considered, but rejected, by the commission.

I'm at the Washington State Transportation Commission meeting in Bellevue, where the commission just revealed that one-way tolls to cross the 520 bridge during rush hours could be as high as $3.50. The tolls would vary by time of day---from nothing between 11 pm and 5 am, to a high of as much as $3.50 between 7 am and 9 am and between 3 pm and 6 pm. The state would charge lower toll rates on weekends, up to a one-way high of $2.25 between noon and 6 pm. Drivers who don't have a state-issued transponder on their car would have to pay a $1.50 surcharge to pay by mail; the state would send those drivers a bill based on a photo of their license plates. Toll rates would increase over time, either by 10 cent or 15 cent annual increments through 2016.

Work on the 520 corridor is expected to cost about $4.6 billion; the state remains about $2 billion short of that amount. The state is anticipating $1.075 billion in toll revenues to help pay for bridge construction.

The commission is also considering a number of new fees, including fees for drivers whose accounts go inactive for two years or more; fees for drivers who request statements by mail; and fees for reminder bills.

The state also estimated how many cars would be diverted from 520 onto parallel routes because of the new tolls. Even at the $3.50 peak level, the commission predicts "minimal change." In 2011, on the north end of I-5, traffic would increase 1.1 percent; on SR 522, it would increase 11.7 percent; on I-90, it would increase 8.3 percent; and on I-405, it would increase 2.7 percent at $3.50.
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