Nearly three out of four drivers on the State Route 520 Bridge have installed a Good to Go pass to electronically pay for their tolls, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation on Wednesday, and officials say that the percentage is expected to continue to rise.
Drivers are also adjusting their morning commute habits, as commutes on Interstate 90 appear to be started around 30 minutes earlier, according to Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Patty Michaud told Patch.
"What we're seeing is that between 5 and 6 a.m., about an 18 to 22 percent increase in traffic, depending on which way" on I-90, she said. That translates to a couple hundred more vehicles than before the toll started.
Traffic volumes on State Route 520 have decreased, she said, and has not been congested during commute time since the toll started Thursday.
“Every day, drivers are making choices whether to avoid the toll or avoid congestion,” said Toll Director Craig Stone of the Washington State Department of Transportation in a prepared statement. “We are seeing signs that we are edging toward that new normal for the morning commute and are closely monitoring where and when drivers are traveling to see what emerges.”
WSDOT continues to work with the tolling customer service center to identify and address all issues that emerge to make sure toll transactions are recorded accurately and customers are charged appropriately, Stone said. “So far, no large problems have developed and this is good news,” he said.
According to Wednesday morning commute data provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation:
- SR 520 had 30 percent less eastbound traffic and 35 percent less westbound traffic during the 7-9 a.m. peak morning commute compared to normal.
- The peak I-90 Wednesday morning commute began about a half hour earlier compared to historical averages. Travel times were near the high end of the normal range.
- Traffic volumes on westbound SR 520 from Bellevue to Seattle dropped 35 percent and drivers traveled up to five minutes faster during the morning commute. The typical westbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. is 12-20 minutes.
- Traffic volumes on eastbound SR 520 from Seattle to Bellevue dropped 30 percent and drivers traveled up to 10 minutes faster. The typical eastbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. is 12-25 minutes.
- Drivers used I-90 as an alternative to SR 520. Westbound I-90 traffic volumes increased slightly and travel times were up to five minutes more than normal. The typical westbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. is 11-20 minutes.
- Eastbound I-90 from Seattle to Bellevue traffic volumes increased slightly and travel times were normal. The typical eastbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. is 11-20 minutes.
- On SR 522 from SR 202 in Woodinville to downtown Seattle, westbound traffic volumes increased slightly and travel times were within the normal range. The typical westbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. is 25-50 minutes.
- Eastbound SR 522 from Seattle to Woodinville traffic volumes increased slightly and travel times were the high end of the normal range. The typical eastbound travel time from 6-8 a.m. is 22-30 minutes.
Good to Go
People continue to start Good to Go accounts, according to the state, with nearly 4,100 new Good To Go! accounts opened Tuesday. A total of 170,497 accounts have been opened since February 2011. The 24-hour average for vehicles on SR 520 with the Good To Go! pass is at 74 percent, according to state figures. The rate of drivers using a pass during peak commute times is higher, about 81 percent, according to the state.
The other drivers who did not have a Good to Go account will which will use photographs of their license plates to charge against a pre-paid toll account set up ahead of time.
, the state said.
On Jan. 3, customers received the first Good To Go! electronic statements with the SR 520 toll. Customer service center personnel listen to concerns and work to address any issues that emerge. Michaud said that the statements will be sent out monthly.
One issue that came up was that customers with Pay By Plate account were charged the 25 cent fee for crossing between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., when there are no tolls, but the state is working to refund the accounts, said Stone.
The toll ranges from $1.60 to $3.50 at peak time between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays; the bridge is toll-free between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. People who pay by mail add $1.50 each way to the toll.
The toll will pay for about $1 billion of the state's a . Improvements include landscaped lids over portions of 520, a wider roadway, increased carpool lanes, a bicycle and pedestrian lane and environmental upgrades. The state legislature decided that $2.37 billion of the amount will be paid through state and federal funding and tolls. Where the rest comes from has yet to be determined. The entire project is slated to be finished by the end of 2014.