A year later: SR 520 tolls are already helping fund construction of a new bridge

by Guest blogger Emily Pace

Dec. 29, 2012 marked one-year since tolling started on the SR 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington. It’s been a team effort and we thank drivers for their patience during this first year of tolling.
SR 520 traffic and revenue continue to meet projections and we are on the way to providing more than $1 billion in funding to help pay for the construction of a new bridge. Through the end of Nov. 30, 2012, SR 520 tolls have generated approximately $50 million in gross revenue. SR 520 variable tolling is also a successful traffic management tool as some drivers are adjusting their trip times to off-peak hours to take advantage of lower toll rates.
Looking back to December 2011 before tolling started, we anticipated about 48 percent drop in traffic volumes on SR 520. That projection was close to actual traffic at the start of tolling, but as expected, throughout the year we’ve seen more drivers return to the corridor and SR 520 bridge traffic is now about 70 percent of pre-toll levels.
As expected, alternate routes are busier, particularly outside of peak commute times. However, not all of the former SR 520 traffic has diverted to other routes. Here’s what we’ve seen on other routes:
  • Overall we have seen a decrease of about 5 percent in the number of total trips around and across Lake Washington on SR 520, I-90 and SR 522.
  • Traffic volumes on the I-90 floating bridge have increased approximately 11 percent and the average travel times in both directions of I-90 between Issaquah and Seattle have increased one to two minutes.
  • Traffic volumes on SR 522 in Kenmore have increased approximately 9 percent, or about 3,800 vehicles daily. Travel times remain relatively the same as before tolling during the morning and are about two minutes longer during the afternoon.
Others took advantage of increased transit service and now take the bus instead of driving. King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit continue to see strong ridership growth across Lake Washington on SR 520. Estimated daily ridership through September 2012 was up a total of 25 percent since 2010.
The majority of drivers pay the toll using a Good To Go! account. About 84 percent of all trips across the SR 520 bridge are paid with a Good To Go! account, which is 12 percent higher than the original forecast. Through the end of November, there have been more than 18 million tolled trips on SR 520.
If you’ve driven across the SR 520 bridge without a Good To Go! account and received a toll bill in the mail, it’s not too late to open up an account. You can open a Good To Go! account, pre-pay $30 and then call customer service and have the toll bills applied to your account. You can open an account online, by calling 1-866-936-8246 or in person at a customer service center in Seattle, Bellevue or Gig Harbor.