For several months, the State’s Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has wanted us to do a posting about tolling on 520. We’ve resisted until now because there’s already been a lot of press on the subject and we’ve had plenty of other issues to cover here at Madison Park Blogger. But the new tolling will directly impact almost all of us here in the Park, and we’re getting close to the day when we’ll have to start paying up. So we thought it would be useful to bring everyone up to date on the subject and to link MPB readers with some helpful resources.
First of all, don’t expect that tolling, when it’s introduced in the spring of 2011, will further slow things down on 520. Those old enough to remember the original toll gates on the eastside of the bridge will recall that everything suddenly came to a halt there as people dug out change to pay the toll keepers. A new electronic tolling system, which WSDOT has branded Good to Go, will automatically record who crosses the 520 bridge and allocate the tolls accordingly.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the system will record what vehicles cross the bridge, since the electronic monitoring will be based either on license-plate numbers or on a reading of the Good to Go stickers placed in the windshields of cars that are signed up for the program. Signing up for a Good to Go pass will make sense for most people who cross the bridge fairly often, since it will be easier and less expensive to do so. Once you’re signed up, the crossing cost will simply be deducted from your Good to Go account. If you’re not signed up, you can be billed by mail. The system is already in use on two State roads, the Highway 167 “hot” lanes and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Anyone registered with Good to Go will be able to use the pass on any Washington State toll road.
Now, about those tolls. They have not been finalized, but the recommendation of the Washington State Transportation Commission is that they vary, depending on time of day travelled, from $0.00 (11 pm until 5 am) to $3.50 for peak commuting hours (7 until 9 am and 3 until 6 pm). That’s what you’d pay with a Good to Go pass. Because it’s more expensive to bill, the State expects to charge a higher toll ($5 during peak hours, for example) to those who do not sign up for the Good to Go program. Weekend tolls will be lower than tolls during the workweek. The chart of the Commission’s proposed tolls is available here. The Commission is expected to finalize the toll schedule on January 5.
Information on all of this is available from the Good to Go site, where you can register to receive emails that will ultimately provide details on obtaining a Good to Go pass. WSDOT has also produced a nifty five-minute video explaining the whole thing. The soothing voice of the upbeat female narrator might almost lull you into the belief that paying a toll to cross the old bridge is a wondrous thing.
Now if she could only make us feel the same way about that new bridge these tolls will be paying for…
[Lower photo is a still from the lovely new WSDOT video. Upper photo is by D. Harshan.]