Friday, December 16, 2011

Top Ten Questions about SR 520 Tolls

The popular sticker pass is about the size of a band-aid.
by guest blogger Emily Pace

Tolling on the SR 520 Bridge is starting Dec. 29. Last week we asked everyone to send us their questions on SR 520 tolling. Here are the top 10 questions we’ve received and answers.
  1. I got my pass at the store. I’m set, right?
    You’re almost set. If you purchased your pass at one of our retail partners (Fred Meyer, Safeway, Costco or QFC) you will need to:
    • Go online to set up and put money in a Good To Go! account and activate your sticker pass
    • Install the sticker pass on your vehicle per the instruction accompanying the pass. Don’t forget to do this before Dec. 29!
  2. I only cross once or twice a month, so why would I get a pass?
    Getting a Good To Go! pass and setting up an account will save you $1.50 in tolls each time you cross the bridge – the $5 sticker pass pays for itself in just four crossings (that’s $6 saved). By setting up a pre-paid account with $30 your tolls will be automatically deducted. So the real question is; why wouldn’t you purchase a pass and open an account?

  3. How much are the tolls?
    • Toll rates vary depending on the time of the day you cross the bridge, but two points are always the same: drivers spend less by driving during off-peak times, and you can save money in tolls with a Good To Go! pass.
    • For those with a Good To Go! pass, toll rates range from $1.60 to $3.50 during the week and $1.10 to $2.20 on the weekend. Rates are $1.50 higher for vehicles without a pass.
  4. How did you come up with these rates?
    The Washington State Transportation Commission recommended toll rates and the Legislature approved them.

  5. Where is this money going, and how much of this is going to pay for the bridge?
    Tolls on SR 520 expect to raise $1 billion to help fund the $4.64 billion SR 520 bridge replacement and HOV program. The target date to open the new bridge is 2014.

  6. What kinds of vehicles are exempt?
    The only vehicles exempt from SR 520 tolls are registered vanpools, transit, emergency response vehicles (such as police, fire and ambulances) on bona-fide emergencies, Washington State Patrol vehicles assigned to the bridge, tow trucks authorized by the Washington State Patrol to clear a blocking incident, and bridge maintenance vehicles. Carpools and motorcycles are not exempt.

  7. What other routes can we take?
    While there are other routes around Lake Washington like I-90, SR 522 and I-405-to-I-5, these may be even more congested as traffic reroutes to avoid tolls. We encourage SR 520 drivers to get a Good To Go! pass and save $1.50 on each toll when they cross the bridge. Drivers can also share the ride and take advantage of carpools, vanpools, transit and work with their employers to look into compressing or changing work hours and teleworking.

  8. Is this really, truly going to happen?
    Yes. Tolling will start at 5 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29 and we are ready. When we encounter issues we will work to solve them as quickly as possible and keep the public updated. Drivers can help and save money in tolls by getting a Good To Go! pass and setting up an account on line as soon as possible to avoid the last-minute rush. Don’t have online access? Just call Good To Go! customer service at 1-866-936-8246 for other payment or pass options.

  9. How many people are going to change their travel routes?
    Every driver is different and it’s going to take a while for travel patterns to shake out. Once people get settled into their new habits we expect to see slightly more traffic on I-90 and SR 522 during rush hour. We also expect to see more traffic return to SR 520 and a more reliable trip across the bridge as drivers find paying a toll for a more reliable trip across the bridge is worth it. We will closely monitor all of the routes around Lake Washington during this transition.

  10. What should visitors from out of the area do to cross the bridge?
    No pass? No worries. Your out-of-town guests don’t have to do anything – a photo will be taken of their license plate and we will bill them by mail at a higher toll rate. You can also call customer service within 72 hours of crossing to pay the toll by setting up a Short Term Account. But those who want the lowest rate possible should check out the pass options online.
Don’t see your question answered here? We have more answers in our SR 520 Tolling Frequently Asked Questions, including information for those who activated their Good To Go! Pass by April 15 - yes, you still get your credit!

If you have questions or concerns regarding a toll bill, civil penalty or Good To Go! account please call 1-866-936-8246 or email


Anonymous said...

Why wasn't it mentioned that you can pay by payee for only $0.25 more. This would make a lot more sense for a lot of people. If someone crosses 20 tinges or less a year it makes just a much sense to pay by plate.

Jeremy Bertrand said...

We encourage drivers, even if they cross once a month, to get a Good To Go! Pass since you’ll always pay the lowest toll rate. Pay By Plate does not require a Good To Go! Pass. However, you still have to up a Good To Go! account and pre-pay $30 in tolls. If you do cross the bridge 20 times a year and use Pay By Plate, the $0.25 extra fee per toll equals out to the cost of sticker pass (20 x $0.25 = $5.00). Ultimately, it’s up to the driver to decide on how to pay the toll. More options on how infrequent drivers can pay the toll:

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Kevin said...

I have heard different #'s but please tell us how much we taxpayers paid for "new" signs that advise the bridge is now tolled?

Anonymous said...

My work buddies and I have heard nothing about the $10 pre-Arpil sign-up campaign being honored. Is WSDOT expecting to make good on their promise to give everyone that signed up, funded, activated, and bonded a transmitter to their account prior to April 2011 their $10 worth of free tolls on their accounts?

Our accounts don't reflect any codes, coupons, or credits. Where is it?

Anonymous said...

Why are motorcycles (which use less gas, produce less road wear, and take up less room on the road) being charged the same for tolls, and actually paying more for getting a pass? Almost everywhere else motorcycles get exemptions, for obvious reasons.

WSDOT said...

$10 in free tolls
Yes! Customers who purchased and activated a Good To Go! Pass by the April deadline will still receive $10 in free tolls for the SR 520 bridge. You won’t see the credit on your account until after tolling starts and you start driving across the bridge. More info:

WSDOT said...

Tolls are directed at all users of the bridge in order to meet funding requirements. Toll rates were determined based upon the number of axles on a vehicle, and motorcycles and cars both typically have two axles. The Washington state transportation commission determines and establishes toll rates and exemptions for state toll facilities in Washington.

WSDOT said...

The cost for signage associated with tolling SR 520 is approximately $700,000 which is paid for by the (federal) Urban Partnership Grant.

Here’s a breakdown of the signs we installed/replaced(not sure if you want to post this or not) but it’s interesting.
• 18 Completely New Signs Installed
• 31 New Signs Replaced Existing Signs
• 8 New Plaques Installed on Existing Signs
• 1 Existing Sign Was Relocated
• 2 Existing Signs Were Removed and Not Replaced

The cost includes more than the signs, it also includes the work to install them.

Here is more about that Urban Partnership Grant:

Let me know if you have any other questions or need anything else.

Anonymous said...

I have a sticker pass (can't be moved to other vehicle). If I add another vehicle to my account, will they pay-by-plate? Could not find this scenario spelled out on website. Thanks.

WSDOT said...

You can add up to six vehicles and passes to your Good To Go! account. If you add a vehicle to your account and don't install a pass, cameras will take a photo of the license plate for Pay By Plate. There is an additional $0.25 fee per toll for Pay By Plate. To pay the cheapest toll rate you should use a Good To Go! Pass.

Anonymous said...

I just got my sticker pass and am concerned about something that I read with my instructions. If we have the pass and have a current account and something goes wrong with the pass getting read, it says that we will get charged Pay by Plate. Does that mean we will get pinged for the full toll, as if we don't have a pass? It also mentioned administrative fees. Sounds like the driver might be getting penalized for no reason. Can someone shed some light? Thanks!

Jeff Lykken said...

Since only 2 lanes and an HOV lane is not enough capasity, will the tolls be used to widen the freeway again once this project is paid off?

Anonymous said...

Reviewing my account, why does it say "passenger" for license plate type when before it indicated motorcyle? Motorcycles on the 167 HOV lanes should not be charged. I asked this question before. Is that still true? How will the system know it's a motorcyle if the license plate now says "passenger" instead of "motorcycle?

WSDOT said...

You’re correct, motorcycles using the SR 167 HOT Lanes do not have to pay a toll. Please call customer service at 1-866-936-8246, so they can ensure you are not charged when on your motorcycle in the SR 167 HOT lanes.

WSDOT said...

Re: "something goes wrong with the pass getting read"

If your Good To Go! Pass isn’t detected (for example if it was installed incorrectly) when crossing the bridge, cameras take a photo of the license plate and link it to the correct Good To Go! account. Your account will be charged the Pay By Plate rate (an additional $0.25) if this happens. If you have a Good To Go! Pass installed in your vehicle and are incorrectly charged the Pay By Plate rate please call customer service at 1-866-936-8246 and they will be happy to help resolve the issue.

WSDOT said...


520 bridge toll revenue was approved by the state Legislature to help finance only a six-lane replacement floating bridge and transit and highway improvements on the Eastside.

Geoff in Bellevue said...

I don't think you addressed the second part of question #5 which asked "how much of this is going to pay for the bridge?" All you said was how much would be collected. Of the $1 billion, what fraction is going to the 520 bridge and where is the rest of the money being spent?

Anonymous said...

I'm a car and motorcycle rider. I'd just like to say I agree with making 520 a toll road. It was far too busy and people who use the bridge should pay for the impact on the environment and on the bridge itself as a user fee. I agree in part with the 'per axle' fees, however, the fee makes a lot more sense as a tonnage fee. Motorcycles have almost no impact on the structure and maintence of the bridge but are charged identically as a passanger car that weighs 4-6x more and causes 4-6x more maintenance cost to the bridge.

It just makes sense in a user fee to charge 'what it costs'. In other words heavier vehicles burn more gas and cause more fatigue damage to roadways not number of axles. The current fee structure pursuades motorcycles riders like myself to use a car because it's more comfortable instead of my motorcycle to cross the bridge (previously I would often use my motorcycle because of benefit of expense and traffic). The toll cost is so pursuasive it will cause me to drive more often, causeing more environmental damage in emmissions and more structural fatigue, and cost to taxpayers, on the bridge itself. I urge DOT to reconsider with Congress the merits of a different fee structure to account for vehicle weight rather than axles.

Also for the new bridge I'd urge a bike lane maybe a great releaver of traffic (provided no toll to bikes) similar to I-90.

Anonymous said...

With traffic levels down on the 520 providing a reliable commute it appears that the goal of WSDOT is to provide a highway convenient for those that can afford the toll. Shouldn't the toll be set to maximize profit and basic economics indicates that you may not be at the optimum price point. Wouldn't another goal be to improve traffic flow in the Puget sound region.

As for the covered parks why not levy use tax on those new parks to pay for the cost. Maybe all of I-5 should be covered in parks, this would eliminate the traffic snarls due to weather.

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