SEATTLE -- Tolling will not start on Seattle's SR 520 floating bridge until December, Washington State Department of Transportation officials announced Thursday.
The delay is at least the fourth in the project to install electronic tolling on 520. Earlier this year, WSDOTsaid for drivers to prepare for tolling to being in spring. By April, it was pushed back to June. In June it was announced tolling would begin in July, and then a few weeks later WSDOTsaid August.
The reason behind the latest delay is further testing to ensure all components of the system work without flaws, according to WSDOT deputy secretary Dave Dye. The 520 bridge is expected to see about 115,000 vehicles pass through each day.
I don't think you can be 100 percent sure about anything, about anywhere, Dye tells KING-5, but we are very very confident, given the information that we have, that we'll be tolling in December.
WSDOTis using Electronic Transactions Consultants Corp. to install and operate the tolling system, which also operates electronic tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Tolling on the Narrows Bridge was interrupted earlier this year when a backlog of tolls suddenly appeared on drivers' bank accounts. ETC has also experienced toll system problems inFlorida, Louisiana, and Illinois.
It has been no secret that we've had challenges getting this system up and running, and the work has been more difficult than we anticipated, Dye said earlier in a statement. The requirements we've established are rigorous because we want to be totally accountable for the tolls that are collected. This doesn't mean it can't be done - it just means we're on the cutting edge of tolling technology in Washington and it has taken longer to ensure that everything is ready.
Dye said the December deadline includes several weeks to fine-tune accounting software for statewide tolling, and about two months to test the system. It includes an extra 30 days recommended by experts they called in.
The expert review panel came in and said our schedule was perhaps too aggressive, said Dye, that while all the vendors came in and said they could make that schedule, in reality probably none of them could.