SR 520 bridge tolling delayed to late July

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by ROBERT MAK / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on June 3, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 3 at 6:25 PM

SEATTLE – Tolling on the State Route 520 floating bridge has been delayed again to late July at the earliest. It's the latest problem and delay involving the state's tolling program and a Texas contractor.

The state initially hoped to begin tolling in April. The state is counting on the tolls to pay for a new bridge. Thousands of drivers have already paid money in the "Good to Go" system to set up accounts that will automatically deduct the toll when they cross the bridge.

The contractor, ETC, was supposed to have passed three levels of testing by now. The state said it couldn't get pass the first test -- the basic accounting of money by the software.

"I wouldn't say we've lost confidence, although we understand the contractor is having challenges," said Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

ETC still hasn't gotten to actual testing of the transponders and readers, which is how the tolling system will deduct the money from drivers' accounts.

Hammond said ETC has agreed to give back $2 million for delays and problems it had with customer service.

"We don't have a lot of choices on dropping the whole thing right now, because it would take us 18 months to two years to start over," said Hammond.

The state plans to set a date in late July to start tolling and the contractor has agreed if there is any further delay, it will pay $56,000 per day.

ETC is the same contractor responsible for an electronic tolling mess on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

The state says a backlog of 23,000 tickets was sent out for drivers who supposedly didn't pay the toll. The state says it's a computer glitch. Many of those customers said they shouldn't have gotten tickets have lined up at the customer service center to get it cleared up.

ETC issued this statement:

"Customer service is our highest priority ... We are very sensitive to any issues that may impact customers' Good To Go! experience."

The state says it is not going to issue any more tickets on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge until this problem is resolved. It doesn't have an idea yet how many tickets are valid and how many are not.

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