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520 Tolls to Rise July 1: How Have First Six Months of Tolls Affected You?

Next Friday marks six months of the 520 tolls. The first of four annual increases will start the Sunday after.

The , and the Washington State Department of Transportation reports that commuters have rolled with the change smoothly so far.

Traffic now flows freely during commute hours and the revenue is ahead of projections the state said.

But get ready for the next change. The first of four annual 2.5 percent increases will start on July 1.

The toll rates, which vary by time of day, will increase 2.5 percent on the total amount. That means the peak Good to Go rate of $3.50 will increase to $3.59, the peak Pay By Mail rate of $5 will increase to $5.13, and so on.

Officials say that the increase is necessary to stay on track with the finance plan to raise $1 billion for a new SR 520 bridge, according to a press release by the state.

“We are headed in the right direction, and it’s looking like our careful planning is already producing positive outcomes,” said WSDOT Toll Director Craig Stone in a prepared statement. “That said, this is the six-month mark of a 30-year plan. It’s more important now than ever before that we stay the course.”

The state has a $4.65 billion plan to improve SR 520 from Seattle to Redmond and which includes the existing construction and improvements in Medina and Bellevue and the new bridge that is being constructed just north of the existing 520 bridge.

So far, the state has identfied the tolls and federal and state gas taxes to fund $2.43 billion of the project. The state continues to seek funding for and is currently designing the bridge's connection to Interstate 5 through Seattle, which will be completed under a separate project, officials said. 

The state plans four 2.5-percent rate increases for SR 520 through 2015 to repay the financing for the new bridge. In July 2016, the tolls are slated to increase by 15 percent. Each rate increase will be reviewed by the Washington State Transportation Commission, who will consider revenue data to determine if the rate increase is needed each year and at what amount, according to the state press release.

Before tolling, officials said that tolling serves the aims of decreasing traffic congestion on State Route 520 and raising the revenue for the bridge project.

The traffic decreased on State Route 520, but not as much as engineers expected, according to the state.

During the first quarter of bridge tolling, weekday traffic was 15 percent higher than projected. April was 19 percent higher, and May numbers indicate that traffic is now 21 percent higher than projected, according to the state.

On Monday, electronic overhead signs on SR 520 will remind drivers about the upcoming rate change, the state reported.

By the numbers

Percentage of vehicles that cross with Good to Go accounts: 80 percent

How many minutes saved at peak time: 12 to 15 minutes

How much paid in tolls between January and March: $12.9 million

Increase in bus ridership: 10 percent

Increase in vanpools: 18 percent

What you'll pay at peak time after July 1: Good to Go, $3.59; Pay by Mail, $5.13.

Cheapest time to cross: 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., when there is no toll.

-- Information from Washington State Department of Transportation

Tell us what you think

Tell us how the toll has affected your life, and we'll report the best comments in an upcoming story. Email your comments to jeanne.gustafson@patch.com, make a comment here on this story, or post your comments to our Facebook Page.

On the web

Toll-rate schedules posted online.

Jeanne Gustafson June 25, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I don't know about everyone else, but I haven't used 520 since the tolls were instituted, and before then I drove the bridge every Sunday to go to my Mom's house. How has the toll changed your behavior or transportation budget?
Gail Coken June 26, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I rarely go into Seattle now. I used to like to try different restaurants, but gas and tolls has curbed that.
Jeanne Gustafson June 26, 2012 at 05:38 AM
I have more of a disconnect now, too, Gail. It seems like removing that midway alternative (for me, that's just too expensive of a toll, though I know there are many who don't have a better alternative) does dampen my enthusiasm for heading west if traffic's heavy on I-90.

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