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December 22, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Have you bought your Highway 520 tolling pass?

Ready for tolling next week on the Highway 520 bridge?

The state Department of Transportation reports today that while there are typically 100,000 vehicle trips a day on the bridge, by the end of last week only about 20 percent of those trips were by vehicles with Good to Go passes installed.

Tolling on the bridge begins Dec. 29. Commutes will be costly but may take less time, staff reporter Susan Gilmore reports from the news conference.

The tolls are expected to cut traffic roughly in half as drivers head for the I-90 bridge and other routes to avoid the cost. About 1 in 5 drivers are likely to shift to the I-90 bridge, Craig Stone, the state’s tolling division director, said at a morning news conference.

The result, he predicted, will be traffic moving 5 to 10 mph slower on the I-90 bridge and 20 mph faster on the Highway 520 bridge.

The Dec. 29  start is long anticipated and, of course, dreaded by drivers whose commutes will get a lot more expensive.

Money will be electronically debited from motorists’ accounts as vehicles pass through and the windshield sticker is read. There will be no toll booths on 520.

Tolls will vary by time of day, with the busiest times being the costliest. For drivers with a “Good to Go” sticker, it will cost $3.50 to cross the bridge during peak commuting hours. Weekend afternoons, $2.20; overnight there will be no charge.

The cost for a commuter driving at peak hours could exceed $1,600 a year.

Cars without the sticker will be billed by mail and charged an extra $1.50, about equal to the extra cost of processing.

Drivers also can use a “pay by plate” system, allowing them to sign up online to make a trip using a prepaid account, at the standard rate plus 25 cents.

Tolls will be higher for trucks and trailers. A three-axle vehicle with a state toll sticker will pay $5.25 each way during peak times, for instance.

Public-transit agencies, registered van pools and registered private buses, will be exempt from tolls. Carpools and motorcycles will pay the normal toll rate.

The startup  follows months of delays. The state blames technical problems in tracking and billing drivers. The late start meant the Department of Transportation missed out on an estimated $1 million a week in tolls.

If the system works as planned, tolls will help raise money for a new floating bridge, while reducing traffic at peak times.

The state’s toll website is goodtogo.org  (phone hotline is 866-936-8246) to set up an account and order a toll sticker. Drivers prepay into an account, using a debit or credit card, or they can arrange for an automatic draw from their bank account into the Good to Go account. It will take four or five business days for a sticker to arrive by mail.

Passes can also be purchased at customer-service centers in Seattle’s University District, Bellevue or Gig Harbor. The basic $5 windshield stickers are also sold at QFC, Costco, Fred Meyer and Safeway stores — but make sure to activate them online using the state website or phone line.

Other pass types include a Velcro-mounted version that costs $8 and can be switched among cars. Motorcycle passes, which are small, clear and can be stuck to the headlamp, are $8. A license-plate mounted pass is $12.

People who cross without a pass and fail to respond to a mailed bill will be rebilled in 30 days for an extra $5. If that goes unpaid another 50 days, a notice of civil penalty will be issued, similar to a parking ticket, for $40 plus accumulated tolls and fees. A private, state-contracted collection agency then contacts the motorist, who will not be able to renew Washington state license tabs without paying up.

Here are the locations for local service centers, where you can buy a pass:

University District, Seattle: 4554 Ninth Ave. N.E., Suite 100.

 

Bellevue: 13107 N.E. 20th St., Suite 4.

 

Gig Harbor: 3212 50th Street Court N.W., Suite 200, off Olympic Drive.

 

Correction: This item, originally published at 11:43 a.m., was corrected at 9:15 p.m. This item originally said that 20,000 Highway 520 commuters had purchased Good to Go passes.


 

 

Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: Good to Go, Highway 520 Bridge, Washington Department of Transportation

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