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December 29, 2011 at 4:05 PM

I-90 traffic grows in first afternoon of 520 tolls

Traffic has been increasing on I-90 on Thursday afternoon, while Highway 520 remained free-flowing because of the new $3.50 peak-time toll.

Traffic at 5:15 p.m. was stop and go both ways on western Mercer Island, while the 520 bridge had only a slight dip in speeds mid-span westbound, according to the state Department of Transportation congestion map. Just before 5 p.m., a drive into Seattle took 32 minutes on I-90 but only 17 minutes on 520.

This comes after a delay-free morning on both bridges.  Traffic on the Highway 520 floating bridge was down about 45 percent compared to earlier this week, after tolls began at 5 a.m. today.

Toll-free Interstate 90 carried about 20 percent more vehicles in the morning but there were no slowdowns there or on Highway 522 around the north end of Lake Washington, Craig Stone, state tolling director, said this afternoon.

Those results were expected, considering the holiday drop in commuting. Friday should be even easier, as people take a four-day weekend, Stone predicted. Around 4 p.m., the floating bridges flowed well but southbound I-5 entering Seattle was clogged, a normal pattern.

As many as 75 percent of 520 motorists had a state Good to Go pass in the morning peak, and 65 percent did mid-day — well above the Department of Transportation’s opening day goal of 50 percent.

The only flaw so far was a computer freeze, around noon, that made it impossible for drivers to create a pass account at customer-service centers. That problem lasted a half hour, aggravating what could be a 45-minute delay for last-minute filers. People using goodtogo.org, the most popular way to sign up, were not affected. People without passes will have their license plates photographed and be billed in the mail for the toll, plus a $1.50 surcharge.

Comments | More in Government, Traffic & Transit | Topics: Highway 520 Bridge, Interstate 90, tolling

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