Tag Archives: toll booth

Paying visitor’s bridge toll takes some advance effort

The in basket: Bernie Golbeck writes, “A few weeks ago some out-of-town friends visited during a road trip. We all went to Tacoma to meet other friends in separate vehicles.

“We went through the toll booth ahead of them in order to pay their Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll. The attendant told us that he did not have any way to scan our Good To Go pass. We were instructed to drive through the red light and the camera would capture our license plate number and charge our account.

“We paid for our friends toll and they got the receipt.  We never did get charged but our friends were mailed a bill for not paying!  They mailed in a copy of their receipt but have yet to hear anything.

“There must be countless people who have a Good To Go pass going across the bridge with other friends in cars without the pass.  Going through the scanning lanes and then pulling over on the shoulder to wait for the booth traffic seems to be asking for trouble.  Maybe they would listen to you and your infinite wisdom and come up with a resolution to a pesky situation, like at least one booth that could scan a Good To Go pass.

“This also happens a lot to me on my motorcycle,” Bernie said.  “Other bikers don’t have the pass and I end up on the shoulder waiting for them and then I have to merge in a hurry when they catch up.  Toll booths have been around a long time.  This seems like an elementary glitch that should have been resolved years ago.”

The out basket: My infinite wisdom came up a bit short on this one. Annie Johnson of the Good to Go! office reminded me that I had written a Road Warrior column last September explaining the reason that they had discontinued the availability of transponder scanners at the toll booths.

“Last fall we completed upgrades to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that allowed us to read both the new and old Good To Go! passes,” she said. “One of the results of the upgrade was that customers can’t use their Good To Go! passes to pay at the toll booths.

“If you recall, we estimated that on an average weekday there were approximately 100 customers with passes stopping at the toll booth to pay their toll and with a cost of $90,000, we didn’t feel it was worth it to upgrade the readers over the toll booths.

“In December, we began photo tolling on the bridge so in a situation like one described by your reader, the easiest thing to do is to temporarily add their visitor’s license plate to their Good To Go! account. Customers can do this online, in-person at a customer service center or by phone at 1-866-936-8246. (They can also use any of these ways to remove a license plate from their account and as a reminder you can have up to six vehicles on one account.)

“Adding visitor’s plates to an account allows both vehicles to skip the toll booths and use the Good To Go! lanes. For vehicles registered on a Good To Go! account, but without a pass, the Good To Go! toll rate plus a $0.25 photo enforced fee will be deducted from the account for each toll transaction. This is less expensive than the cash toll rate and allows folks traveling in multiple cars to stay together.”

She also said they’ll be happy to work with Bernie and his friend to resolve the disputed bill. I sent him the details on what they need to do that.


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.”





How do you run a toll booth?

The in basket: Rebecca Copenhaver asks, “How does one fail to pay at a toll booth?

“I received a citation in the mail,” she said, “with a snapshot of my license plate, saying I was believed to have gone through the toll booth at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge without paying.  

“Is this even possible? I picture myself in some action movie, high-speed chase, blowing through the little arm at mach speed. It makes no sense …  I have asked for my day in court, but would like to know if this actually happens,” she said.

The out basket: Janet Matkin of the toll-collecting office at the bridge said she can’t discuss an individual case due to privacy restrictions, but can describe things that can lead to this accusation. 

“A driver may receive a citation when using the manual toll lanes because: (1) they do not have the cash, credit card, or debit card to pay the toll; or (2) they have insufficient funds in their debit account; or (3) their credit card may be declined when the transaction is processed later in the day; or (4) they may have a security program associated with their credit card that does not allow a transaction without a signature. 

“In order to avoid a citation,” Janet said, “drivers using the manual toll lanes are encouraged to pay cash, use a valid credit card, or ensure they have sufficient funds in their account. 

“Any customer who thinks they have received a citation in error is encouraged to contact the Good To Go! customer service center at 1-866-936-8246 to have the citation researched,” she added.

She could say she’d looked into Rebecca’s case and “do know that her citation(s) appear to be valid.”