Five months into tolling, drivers say 520 bridge traffic on the rise

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 8 at 7:49 PM

SEATTLE -- After tolling on the SR 520 floating bridge began in late December, many commuters opted for the still free I-90 bridge, vowing to never pay a toll to drive over Lake Washington.

   Salesman Troy McVicker was one of them. "I swore it off. I'm not going to give in. "I'm going to divert."

    He did, to I-90, around the lake using 405 and I-5.

   "And once I figured out it was an extra 15 to 30 minutes, and I started calculating time and the value of my time. it's no big deal anymore." says McVicker.

   He is not alone. More people are going back to the bridge and the volumes built through April and May.  According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, volumes in the afternoon commute period between three and six p.m. are now at 79 percent of comparable levels before tolling began.

   Commuters say in the evening, there are now traffic jams like there were before, and the commute is getting longer.  "Go over in the morning. Not seeing very many people. Go over it in the afternoon and paying a toll and sitting in traffic." says paul Behr who

The Washington State Department of Transportation says revenues from tolls are now running 6 percent over projections.  Back in March when the state transportation commission decided to raise tolls, the concern was that the state would fall short.

It's an open question whether traffic levels could fall after a 2.5 percent hike in tolls takes effect on July 1. The peak rate on the 520 bridge will increase from $3.50 to $3.59 for Good to Go pass holders, and the peak Pay By Mail rate of $5 will rise to $5.13.  If the trend continues and the revenue and traffic growth continues, the transportation commission could chose to move tolls back down.

There's an app for that

The 520 bridge tolls sparked some technology entrepreneurs to create smartphone applications. Geekwire has a roundup of seven apps, some of which list tolling rates (they vary throughout the day) while others try to predict how much money a driver would save by taking or avoiding 520.  One free app featured in our TV story is found at www.520or90.com .

      

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