SEATTLE -- A new U.S. Department of Transportation study to be released later this week shows fewer drivers choose to take the SR 520 Evergreen Floating Bridge and fewer people are crossing Lake Washington.
But those that are making the commute on the toll bridge tend to be more affluent, and lower-income drivers largely are the ones forced to sit in traffic on I-90 and SR 522, the most popular alternatives, according to the study.
Information generated by the USDOT will be presented to the Washington State Transportation Commission later this week. It analyzed trends before and after the toll was installed on the SR 520 bridge.
It comes as public comment on the Washington Department of Transportation plan to toll I-90 across Lake Washington continues this month.
Overall travel across Lake Washington, according to the study, dropped roughly 20%, "especially on SR 520". At the same time, drivers do not appear to be using other "off-corridor" alternatives.
More commuters are also choosing to use mass transit, the study indicates. 45% of those interviewed cited the toll as a reason to avoid driving themselves to and from Seattle, higher than the 44% who cited reduced stress.
86% of those studied and chose to drive on I-90 or SR 522 to avoid the SR 520 toll said they were avoiding paying the toll, according to the study. However, those who do use the SR 520 toll tend to enjoy the drive more and are more affluent.
State transportation commissioner and former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer said Saturday night the study does not give a complete view of the situation. He also indicated even if drivers choose to leave a route because of a toll, "they do come back."
But Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett, an opponent of a WSDOT proposal to toll I-90, cited the study as an indication to keep the freeway free.
"We share a similar concern," Mayor Bassett said, referring to the gap in income of most SR 520 bridge drivers, "If you toll I-90, you'll force folks around the south end of the lake. That's a big burden."
The next meeting on I-90 tolling is Oct. 21 at Mercer Island H.S.