Highway 520 tolling begins bright and early Thursday

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on December 28, 2011 at 8:14 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 28 at 7:56 PM

SEATTLE -- Tolling on one of the state's busiest bridges is set to begin Thursday, but less than a quarter of drivers using it have the sticker that automatically bills them.

The Washington state Department of Transportation hoped to have about 50 percent of Highway 520 floating bridge commuters with their "Good to Go" sticker installed by Thursday, yet only 20 percent have it so far, said Patty Rubstello, director of toll system and engineering for 520.

We're "not sure if people are waiting until the last minute," Rubstello said Wednesday.

Rubstello said the state witnessed similar rates when tolling was introduced on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

At nearly 215,000, plenty of stickers have been issued, Rubstello said, but the state is not sure if daily commuters are using them yet. The bridge will be the first in the state with all-electronic tolling rather than cash-collection tollbooths. The "Good to Go" pass allows automatic billing to pre-paid accounts.

Those without the sticker will be billed by mail for the toll -- plus a $1.50 surcharge. If the toll is not paid 14 days after the bill arrives in the mail, a second toll fee is charged plus $5. Should the toll not be paid 80 days after it initially was issued, a civil penalty plus $40 is charged. After that, the state sends the account to collections.

The tolling kicks in at 5 a.m. Thursday on the bridge crossing Lake Washington.

On Wednesday night, the Montlake on- and off-ramps will close at 10 p.m. and the eastbound lanes between I-5 and 92nd will close at 11 p.m. The westbound lanes between I-5 and 92nd, will have “rolling slowdowns” - 20-minute closures - beginning at midnight.

This will allow work crews to put up signs and make final preps for the changeover.

Rates are based on the time of day and range from $1.10 late at night to $3.50 at peak times, in each direction. Those rates are for drivers who have a state-issued Good to Go sticker that works like a debit card.

 

Rubstello said the department is expecting traffic on the Interstate 90 bridge and Interstates 5 and 405 to be affected by the toll, but the impact may not be clear this week because of there are fewer commuters due to the holidays.

Roughly 120,000 drivers use the bridge on a normal workday. The DOT expects 40,000 drivers to seek another route.

Tolling was originally slated to start this past spring, but glitches with the electronic system set up by Texas-based ETC Corporation delayed the start.

Go to our 520 Bridge tolling section to learn everything you need to know about the bridge tolls.

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