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Toll rate proposals likely calling for 15% increases on State Route 520 Bridge

A drop in commuters during the pandemic resulted in less revenue for the state.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Enjoy a lighter than usual commute during the pandemic? It's going to make some commutes more expensive in western Washington.

Fewer commuters meant lower toll and ferry revenues for the state.

State Route 520 rates will likely go up around 15% in 2023, according to options being presented to the Washington State Traffic Commission, the state’s toll setting body.

Crossing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge could cost a quarter more per eastbound trip come October.

Commissioners received reports from traffic consultants to find ways to make up for those revenue losses on Tuesday.

“Our system is funded assuming drivers are going to drive,” said commission Executive Director Reema Griffith. 

State Route 520 saw a 54% drop in traffic between March of 2020 and 2021, according to reports presented to the commission.

To make up the difference, commissioners were given two options. One would expand the times of day considered “peak” times while raising tolls an average of 15%. The other option would maintain current peak rates while increasing the rate by 15% across the board.

State Route 99 tunnel commuters in Seattle will either pay 15% higher tolls or a straight 25-cent increase for each trip. Tunnel toll rates could change as soon as October.

October might be when tolls to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge would go into effect.

Griffith said the proposed increases are not as high as some commissioners feared. She credited state lawmakers for setting aside portions of federal COVID-19 relief funding and gas tax revenue to offset some of the losses in toll revenue.

Commissioners are expected to select their final tolling options in mid-June.

At that point the public can comment on the proposals by visiting https://wstc.wa.gov/.