Are you really Good to Go for tolling on the State Route 520 bridge? If you bought a transponder from a local store, you could be in for a surprise.
About four out of five drivers who commute across the State Route 520 bridge aren’t ready for the big change to come at 5 a.m. Thursday – the day that tolling starts.
Many motorists simply have not started Good to Go accounts, the automatic tolling system that the state will use instead of tollbooths on either end of the bridge.
But some motorists who purchased Good to Go transponders from local stores such as , Safeway, Fred Meyer or QFC may think they are ready to go with Good to Go, but have not completed the final step: activating their accounts online or at a local customer service center, said Washington State Department of Transportation toll division director Craig Stone.
“Maybe you purchased a Good To Go pass in April and forgot about it or perhaps you received it as a gift,” Stone said in a prepared statement. “If so, you still have another step: activate and install. Once your pass is active and in your vehicle, you can breathe easy.”
To activate your pass go to the Good to Go website.
While about 133,000 accounts and 215,000 passes have been sold, drivers still must activate the accounts, which takes about 15 minutes to do online. Drivers also can go to a customer service center at 13107 NE 20th St., Suite 4, Bellevue.
The Washington State Department of Transportation encourages drivers to get Good to Go passes installed and accounts activated on their vehicles before Thursday, when drivers are expected to shift their habits and either be surprised by the toll or change their commute to cross Interstate 90 or go north around the lake using State Route 522, Stone said.
The big test will be next Tuesday, Jan. 3, when many people are back from winter break, and Stone encourages drivers all over the Puget Sound region to give a lot of time.
“We forecasted 20 percent of the traffic going across 520 will move over to Interstate 90, about 4 to 5 percent will move up to State Route 522, about 15 percent of the traffic will go to transit, vanpools or may just stay on their side of the lake,” he said.
The state estimates that peak-time traffic on Interstate 90 will be 5 to 10 mph slower than it is currently because of the traffic diversion, and .
About 80 percent of motorists who use the bridge do not yet have an account or pass and the state is expecting long lines in the first weeks of the toll, he said.
“Even if you have a pass, you have a choice. You can still take I-90, you can take transit, but it gives you the flexibility,” Stone said.
Instead of collecting the tolls at a tollbooth, all tolls will be collected electronically, either through the Good to Go transponder passes that can be installed in the window of a car, or via a photo taken of a vehicle’s plate. The registered owner of the vehicle can either pay by mail after a bill is received for an additional $1.50 per trip, or vehicle owners can start an account that can be debited for an additional 25 cents a trip.
How much will the toll be?
The toll will be variable: $1.60 to $3.50 each way from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, and $1.10 to $2.20 on weekends and some holidays.
Why will the bridge have a toll?
The tolls are set to help pay for $1 billion of 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 not been determined. The entire project is slated to be finished by 2014.
Part of that plan has already begun with a $306 million construction project. Another full closure is set for this Friday through early Monday morning. The State Route 520 Eastside Transit and HOV Project will:
- Widen SR 520 and create carpool lanes in both directions.
- Widen the shoulders, so disabled vehicles will not block the lanes of traffic.
- Create three landscaped lids over SR 520, two with access to new transit stops.
- Add a bike and pedestrian lane to SR 520.
Create environmental improvements, including improvements to streams and noise barriers.