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520 Toll Rates Rise Sunday: Readers Reflect

As the region gears up for the first rise in 520 Bridge toll rates, about six months after the tolls started, readers report how the toll has affected their lives.

The 520 Bridge Toll Rates are set for their first rise on Sunday, as tolls rise 2.5 percent.

That means at peak commute hours, the Good to Go toll will rise from $3.50 to $3.59 a crossing; and Pay by Mail will rise from $5 to $5.13 a crossing.

The Washington State Department of Transportation reports that traffic now flows more freely during commute hours than before tolling and the revenue is ahead of projections. But we asked readers to report how the changes are affecting their lives.

A reader who signed herself Disgusted Citizen wrote in an email that the toll is "anti-working man:"

The whole thing is SO anti-working man and to tell us that it has "gone smoothly" is SUCH a SHAM!  REALLY.  This is a state with a reasonably equitable distribution of wealth.  C'mon you money-grubbing bureaucrats -- this whole endeavor is deplorable -- I indulged in traversing the bridge I crossed free daily for 35 years the other day to the tune of $5 -- this is WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY too high and to make it higher means you are ever more greedy.  Get a grip.  I luckily am an artist. I can go the long way.  But my friends who open up grocery stores-- good, decent people who are the BACKBONE of society and corporations...are paying an extra $200-$300 per month for this debacle.  FIND ANOTHER SOURCE OF REVENUE OTHER THAN THE WORKING MAN.  You're starting to sounds like Scott Walker.  Cousin of GW.

However, not everyone is so upset about the changes.

User on Bellevue Patch commented he's glad that the state is on track and that the plan is working so far.

I remember many predictions that (1) traffic would be less than WS-DOT predicted, and (2) the toll-collection hardware was faulty and (3) plate covers, strategic spatters of mud, and good-to-go non-compliance would foil the collection effort. It's good to see WS-DOT is performing well. I drive almost as much as before (half driving and half busing), and contribute to the needed replacement bridge.

User  posted similar comments on Kirkland Patch:

Glad tolling is working so well. Suck it up and get used to tolls. Voters of the state have consistently said they don't want taxes any higher, but they still want roads and services. Can't have one without the other, maybe not as musically as love and marriage, but if you want something, you have to pay for it one way or another. If road taxes spread throughout the population aren't acceptible, then user fees for those who use specific roads are the only way left to go.

The positive thing about tolls is that they drop off after the project is paid off, at least unless a smaller toll continues to pay for upkeep. Things could be worse -- we could have privately run turnpikes like they have in eastern states such as Massachusetts. There, you have to pay tolls about every 10 miles to pay the private contractor for keeping that part of the turnpike maintained. (Or maybe that's what people of Washington do want, since they keep rejecting every other way of paying for stuff.)

Some users have changed their habits.

Jan Stout posted on the Bellevue Patch Facebook page that her family has been able to plan around the tolls:

We are retired, so we are generally able to plan our trips for mid day or weekends to avoid the highest toll times. However, this toll seems much harder on our budget than it did when the toll was $.35!

Some users, like  on Kirkland Patch, also changed her habits:

The toll has affected me in two ways: 
1. I use my ORCA card more and enjoy the scenery as I ride the bus across the bridge and save $. 
2. When I cross the bridge in my car and pay the toll, I'm delighted to be paying something toward my share of the cost of construction.

I'd prefer a tax structure where we'd all invest in quality public services, education, infrastructure construction and maintenance.

Another reader emailed Bellevue Patch and said that she hasn't crossed the lake since January.

I haven't been to Seattle since tolling started and haven't missed it.

We'll still take your comments. Tell us how the toll has affected your life, and we'll report the best comments in an upcoming story. Email your comments to bellevue@patch.com, make a comment here on this story, or post your comments to our Facebook page.

Background

The toll rates, which vary by time of day, will increase 2.5 percent on the total amount. That means the peak Good to Go rate of $3.50 will increase to $3.59, the peak Pay By Mail rate of $5 will increase to $5.13, and so on.

The state has a  from Seattle to Redmond and which  and the new bridge that is being constructed just north of the existing 520 bridge.

Sunday's increase is the first of  to repay the financing for the new bridge. In July 2016, the tolls are slated to increase by 15 percent. Each rate increase will be reviewed by the Washington State Transportation Commission, who will consider revenue data to determine if the rate increase is needed each year and at what amount, according to the state press release.

Officials say that the increase is necessary to stay on track with the finance plan to raise $1 billion for a , according to a press release by the state.

So far, the state has identfied the tolls and federal and state gas taxes to fund $2.43 billion of the project. The state , which will be completed under a separate project, officials said. 

Before tolling, officials said that tolling .

On the web

Toll-rate schedules posted online.

 

By the numbers

Percentage of vehicles that cross with Good to Go accounts: 80 percent

How many minutes saved at peak time: 12 to 15 minutes

How much paid in tolls between January and March: $12.9 million

Increase in bus ridership: 10 percent

Increase in vanpools: 18 percent

What you'll pay at peak time after July 1: Good to Go, $3.59; Pay by Mail, $5.13.

Cheapest time to cross: 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., when there is no toll.

-- Information from Washington State Department of Transportation

John Vidale July 01, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I remain amazed that people purported to make sense while claiming to save a few bucks by driving all the way south to the I-90 bridge or north around Lake Washington for free passage. While in a few cases it might be just an iota more work, in most cases it amounts to burning more oil and putting more wear on cars, not to mention wasting many minutes of time, just to avoid contributing to the very structures they need to get where they are going. Time to put a toll on the I-90 bridge, as well. Insolvent governments borrowing money to fix crumbling infrastructure is no way to run the country, state, and county.
Venice Buhain July 02, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I agree that I'd like to hear that perspective, too, John. I'm about equidistant between I-90 and SR 520 (literally -- I just Mapquested it and SR 520 is actually about a half mile further away from me, hardly anything in a car). I admit that I take I-90 most of the time because of the toll, but I'm not usually driving out of my way. And if I'm heading to the University of Washington, or if I'm in a huge hurry, I'll take 520. But I am curious to hear from people who do make that calculation and drive out of their way when deciding which bridge to cross.
Ryan Graves December 21, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I have started a petition to enact change in the Billing & Customer Service policies for the WA State Department of Transportation "Good To Go" 520 Bridge Tolling program. If you would like to read and sign the petition, I'd be grateful. Please check out the link and sign if you would like to support: https://www.change.org/petitions/good-to-go-washington-state-department-of-transportation-change-billing-customer-service-policies-automatic-updating-of-addresses

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