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It's (finally) official: Tolls on SR-520 Bridge start in December

WSDOT photo
An example of the signs that will be installed to let drivers know the SR 520 bridge is a toll bridge - starting in December. A trip during rush hour will cost $3.50 each way.

Get ready to pay if you drive on the floating bridge across Lake Washington. The state Department of Transportation has announced the much-delayed tolls on the 520 bridge will start in December.

Tolling on the bridge was originally set to begin this spring, then that was bumped to this summer. Now, the state says the all-electronic system will be up and running four months from now. 

“It’s no secret that this has been a challenge getting here,” says David Dye,  Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of Washington’s Department of Transportation. He says the state’s original timeline was too aggressive and the vendor they hired promised to deliver on that, but stretched itself too thin. 

Earlier foul-ups

In February, they took over tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Thousands of drivers using pre-paid transponders received false citations because the vendor’s equipment malfunctioned. Dye says that’s all fixed now. 

“We’ve had multiple workshops; we communicate daily with the Chief Executive Officer of the corporation, they have committed the resources and we are working together. We’re going to get this done and we’ll be there in December.”

Dye says nothing’s ever perfect when it’s launched, but he expects the system to work much better on the 520 bridge. They've completed an internal audit and are continuing with ongoing tests. An outside panel of experts has endorsed the state's next steps to launch the system.

The tolls will cost $3.50 each way during rush hour and less at off-peak times. Drivers who don’t have transponders will receive a bill in the mail for their tolls, with an added service charge of a dollar fifty.

The collections will total a million dollars a week in revenue to help pay for the replacement of the floating bridge, which was built in 1963 and vulnerable to sinking in a wind storm.

You can get a transponder and set up a pre-paid account for the tolls at the state's Good to Go website.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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