Tag Archives: 520

Kitsapper has some 520 bridge questions

The in basket: Dr. Larry Iversen writes, “Even though the 520 bridge is on the other side of Puget Sound, as a major highway, it does impact all of us who will travel across Lake Washington.

“Questions:  1) Why tear down the old 520 bridge?  Why not renovate it and use it like what was done with the Tacoma Narrows old bridge?

“2) How will the new bridge traffic blend with I-5 OR is the plan to narrow and divert the new bridge traffic with the existing highway between Montlake and I-5?

The out basket: Steve Peer, the state’s SR 520 media and construction communications manager, fielded this one and said, “After more than a half century of use, the existing floating bridge is showing its age and has become vulnerable to windstorms. The bridge approaches, with columns attached to land, are susceptible to earthquakes.

“The new floating bridge adds HOV lanes in both directions which will connect to future improvements that will add the same westward toward I-5. It also boasts a 14-foot shared-use path for bicycles and pedestrians.

“Once connected to the west approach, currently being constructed, non-motorized traffic will be able to cross Lake Washington from the Eastside to Seattle.

“Traffic from the new floating bridge will narrow and move onto the existing highway with a temporary connection bridge. In summer 2017, WSDOT will complete the westbound lanes between the new floating bridge and Montlake. “Then, in 2018 WSDOT will start the Rest of the West project which will improve regional mobility with the addition of dedicated HOV lanes across the entire SR 520 corridor, in both directions from Redmond to I-5.”

If the Rest of the West online link Steve provided doesn’t automatically take you there, or if you’re reading this in the newspaper, it can be accessed online via wsdot.wa.gov.

Keep track of your crossings on toll bridges

The in basket: There was an interesting column by Danny Westneat in the Sunday Seattle Times on Oct. 14 about a woman who was assessed the $40 civil penalty for not paying the toll for a trip she made across the 520 Bridge in Seattle, even though two bills mailed to her were sent back as undeliverable and she never got them..

The law says the toll is owed whether the car owner has been billed or not, not much of a problem for those of us who have transponders and Good to Go! accounts, but a concern of infrequent bridge users without transponders on their vehicles.

I told Annie Johnson of the Good to Go! toll office I thought the public relations damage of such a policy might outweigh the revenue gained.

The out basket: Annie said the woman’s mail had a temporary hold on it, and when the post office’s permitted time for that service expired, the mail was sent back to the sender – to the Good to Go! office in the case of the bills.

So they knew the woman hadn’t gotten the bills. Her mail was getting to her again by the time the penalty notice was sent.

And that can happen to anyone who lets a toll bill go unpaid for 80 days, whether notified of the owed amount or not.

Annie said it is important to expect to pay the toll when crossing the 520 or Tacoma Narrows bridges. Don’t regard it as optional or gamble that your crossing went unnoticed.

If you don’t have a Good to Go! account, find a way to remember the date of the toll incurred, to be aware that there is a problem you need to track down if 14 days go by and you haven’t been billed. There is a separate $40 civil penalty for each unpaid toll.

If you ignore the toll and the civil penalty, you’ll have trouble renewing your license tab. Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing says, “The Department of Transportation sends us information about toll violators who meet the parameters for having a hold placed on their vehicle renewal and we flag the record so renewal transactions can’t be processed until the owner pays the tolls and any associated fees or penalties.”

The woman Westneat wrote about paid the $40 as well as the toll, but there are options, Annie said, discussed online at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/GoodToGo/faq.

The options when getting a toll bill and penalty are to pay it, write a letter seeking redress, or going before a judge to plead your case.

If you haven’t seen a bill in the mail two weeks after your vehicle crossed one of the bridges, and your tolls are not paid automatically from a Good to Go! account, you should call customer service at 1-866-936-8246 to find out why not.

Even Good to Go! customers can get a toll bill in the mail, with the same penalties for ignoring it. That Web site said reasons for such a billing include:

– You bought a Good To Go! Sticker Pass at a retail store and did not activate it by opening a Good To Go! account or adding it to an existing account

– Your Good To Go! Pass was not detected and you hadn’t kept current the plate numbers listed on your account.

– Credit card information on your Good To Go! account is not up-to-date.

– Your account does not have enough money in it to pay your tolls.

This all seems to be another incentive for buying a transponder and opening a Good to Go! account, in addition to the extra $2 one pays to pay one’s toll by license plate number.

Tolling on 520 bridge primes question pump

The in basket: All the publicity about the new tolls on the 520 bridge in Seattle, to be done exclusively with cameras reading license plates and transponders, has generated a number of questions in the arena of tolling.

I can recall who asked only one of them.  Ronda Armstrong of Central Kitsap wonders if the advent of photo tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will mean the toll booths are to be closed. She suggested, joking, I think, that they would make excellent espresso stands.

I got two questions at a party at Chris and Gail Whitley’s house in Chico but I can’t remember who asked. One wondered how rental car agencies will deal with the new tolling system and another wondered if the tolls will be collected in both directions on the 520 bridge, contrary to the one-way collection at the Tacoma Narrows.

 

Lastly, I admitted to having lost track of the debate over whether tolls should also be collected on the I-90 bridge so drivers couldn’t duck the 520 tolls by rerouting to I-90

I asked the state Good to Go! office those questions.

The out basket: Annie Johnson of that office provided the following answers.

“No decision about the fate of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll booths has been made, so they will remain in operation for the foreseeable future.

“The 2011 transportation budget directed WSDOT to consider transitioning to all-electronic tolling on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and discontinuing the cash payment option. It should be noted that any decisions regarding the removal of the toll booths will be made by the Legislature and not WSDOT.

“The key finding from the report we sent to the Legislature in February 2011 was that we need to reexamine this once we’ve have a year’s worth of data from photo tolling. Since photo tolling just went into effect, we won’t have a year’s worth of data until January 2013.”

Tolls will be collected in both directions on the 520 bridge, she said, adding, “The toll rates vary depending on the time of day, and the current toll rate is displayed on an electronic sign on the high-rise.

“Each rental car agency handles tolls differently so it’s important to check your rental agency’s policy on how they bill for tolls,” Annie said. “With the introduction of photo tolling, visitors can now set up a Short Term Account which saves you 50 cents each trip off the Pay By Mail toll rate.

“To open a temporary account, you need your license plate and a credit or debit card. You can call or go online to set up a Short Term Account. Short Term Accounts automatically close after 14 days.’

Lastly, she said, no tolls will be imposed on the I-90- bridge for now.  “The state Legislature considered options for tolling both (Seattle) bridges. (It) only authorized tolling of the SR 520 Bridge, with the intent to monitor how (that) affects traffic on other corridors, and if sufficient funds are being collected to pay for costs associated with building the 520 replacement bridge.

“Legislative authorization is required to toll any new corridors, including I-90, and tolling I-90 would also have to be coordinated with the Federal Highway Administration.”