SEATTLE — A lot of people are continuing to go out of their way to avoid paying the new Highway 520 bridge tolls.
Only 44,300 vehicles took Highway 520 across Lake Washington on Thursday — the first day of the new electronic toll program — compared with 85,000 trips for a typical Dec. 29, and 112,000 trips for a normal commuting day. The Seattle Times reported that’s a 60 percent drop.
Officials said Friday morning traffic on Highway 520 looked even lighter than Thursday morning. The total may trend down to 40,000 trips. Officials are still confident that toll revenue will help pay for a replacement bridge to connect Seattle and cites east of Lake Washington.
Craig Stone, state tolling director, said the opening-week trends are about as expected. In one financial forecast, as many as 45 percent of 520 bridge users would either detour, switch to transit or van pools, or stay home in the opening year, before traffic rebounds. State officials say tolls will still support a proposed $1 billion in bond sales to help fund a $4.65 billion replacement highway.
Rates are based on the time of day and range from $1.10 late at night to $3.50 at peak times, in each direction. Those rates are for drivers who have a state-issued Good to Go sticker that works like a debit card. Transit and registered van pools don’t have to pay.
Those without the Good to Go sticker will be billed by mail for the toll — plus a $1.50 surcharge. If the toll is not paid 14 days after the bill arrives in the mail, a second toll fee is charged plus $5. Should the toll not be paid 80 days after it initially was issued, a civil penalty plus $40 is charged. After that, the state sends the account to collections.