An example of overhead tolling from the "Build 520" website.

[Update: This post initially stated that tolls on I-90 would only take effect if the speeds on I-90 fell by half during the first three months of tolling SR-520. In fact, tolls on I-90 would take effect if speeds on I-405 fell by half during any three consecutive months after tolling begins on SR-520. I’ve corrected the text below.]

State Representatives Ross Hunter, Deb Ebby, and Marko Liias introduced HB 2319 Monday. The bill would allow tolls to be applied to both the SR-520 span across Lake Washington and the I-90 span. The toll revenue would go to construction of a new, six-lane 520 bridge and the highway work on both sides of the water.

Tolls would only apply to the I-90 span if speeds in the I-405 corridor fall by half for a period of three months compared to the previous year or if the SR-520 tolls are raising less than 80% of the expected revenue. Tolls would be capped at $2.90 (2007 dollars) annually adjusted for inflation and would be variable based on the time of a day, a form of congestion pricing.

The SR-520 toll would take effect on January 1, 2010. By implementing variable tolling before the end of 2010, the region would receive $154mn in Federal grant money.

The bill is being offered as an alternative to HB 2211. That bill, offered by Rep. Clibborn who is chair of the transportation committee and represents Mercer Island, would not toll the I-90 span under any circumstances.

This blog has long asserted that it is necessary to toll both spans for to get the maximum amount of funding for the 520 bridge, to make sure that congestion isn’t simply redirected to I-90, and because we support the concept of congestion pricing as perhaps the singular model to reduce congestion. I-90 tolls shouldn’t be optional, they should be a feature of this bill. But this bill is much better than Clibborn’s version.

19 Replies to “Reps Introduces Bill to Toll 520 & 90 Spans”

  1. I’m with you on the joint I-90/520 toll, an important step in a regional roll out of congestion pricing.

    However the price is too low. Tacoma Narrows tolls are $3.50, effective this year, flat rate, while Lake Washington tolls are at $2.90, MAX rate.

    Where’s the fairness in that?

    FWIW, we also need to extend the 167 HOT lanes region wide, asap.

    1. A couple things with the tolls. First this is the first time the State has “pre tolled” a project so I think the fairness in keeping the rate low is that a fair number of toll payers won’t ever use what they are paying for. Second this is slightly a slightly lower max than in HB 2211 so that might be an attempt to gain a few more votes.

      Lower toll revenue would kick in one of the I-90 tolling clauses. On the other hand by lowering the toll you’re less likely to divert traffic and kick in that clause to toll I-90. You pays your money and you takes your chances ;-)

      I would have like to have seen more in this bill but part of the reason for it’s form may be that it was introduced late and must comply with the “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB) rules. If I remember correctly tolling both bridges was one of the strings attach by the Federal government to an SR 520 funding package that included money for passenger only ferries and other goodies completely unrelated to the Evergreen Point bridge.

  2. Actually, Eastbound only: $4.00 (cash/credit price), $2.75 (transponder price)

    I agree that toll booths will be needed for SR-520 and I-90 for maximum benefit. You simply can’t force everyone to get Good to Go passes, especially for those that are traveling out of state. That is simply foolish to think the only people who will be paying tolls will only be those whom commute it on.

    I also agree about the Hwy 167 HOT lanes. They really need to extend it out to Puyallup to get any benefit out of that corridor. Traffic backs up right after Hwy 18 in either direction. I can see tolls on I-405 within the next 10-15 years.

    1. We’re not talking about making it so that if you don’t have a Good to Go pass you can’t drive over the bridge; they said at a 520 tolling meeting that if you drive over the bridge and you don’t have a transponder the system will take a picture of your license plate and send a couple dollars higher bill to your house much like the red-light cameras.

      1. They’ll deffinately have to fix the ticket people get for skipping the toll on the TNB then. It wouldn’t be right if someone who skips the toll up north and gets a bill for $5 while someone down south gets a $49 ticket.

    2. The 2.75 toll has been raised .50, so the actual amount will be $3.25, effective I believe in June.

      You are correct about the one way collection. These are 24 hour tolls. Tolls on 520 and I-90 will be zero at off peak times. How that variable tolling will average out on a per trip basis might be interpretable from the 520 tolling study done by the State, but not worth my time.

      No doubt those lake tolls will also increase quickly after initial adoption.

  3. I’m alright with the three month waiting period. I can quibble about the 50%, but our basic rationale for the toll is that not tolling I-90 will be a congestion disaster. I see no problem with requiring confirmation that it is, in fact, a congestion disaster.

    I also think the $2.90 is too low, but overall I think it’s a good bill.

  4. I think 50% is too much of a decrease, and a one-time analysis of traffic isn’t a real solution to future congestion that will likely result. And what about the fact that tolling only one bridge just won’t bring enough revenue? I can see the bill’s intentions of fairness but things could be better.

  5. 09 The imposition of tolls on the Interstate 90 floating bridge is
    10 authorized if: (i) The average vehicle speed in the peak direction
    11 during peak hours on Interstate 405, as determined by the department,
    12 decreases by more than fifty percent for three consecutive months after
    13 the imposition of tolls on the state route number 520 corridor,

    Note that the requirement is on I-405, not I-90. The whole requirement is pretty vague. What are peak hours? Which direction is “peak” on I-405 through Bellevue? I’d note also that it isn’t just for a limited period after tolling starts on SR 520. Just the normal construction delays and growth are likely to double travel times on I-405 over the next five years. Just an economic recovery would probably do it.

    1. Wow, I misread that! I thought it said “the three consecutive months. The 405 thing was a typo in the post. I’ll correct both issues. Thanks, Bernie.

      1. Given that the impact studying will be rolling, I’m pretty supportive of this bill. I think it should outright toll I-90, but it is also okay to have conditions. I think the 80% requirement will happen with a poor economy and I think the traffic requirement will happen with the next recovery, so we’ll see I-90 tolls probably.

  6. I can’t monitor this thread tonight, but thought you should know that the triggers we put in the bill (congestion measures, revenue) were placeholders. I knew when we were directing staff to draft this bill that city transportation planners (or even you guys on this blog!!) would be able to come up with better measures for system failure, what should provoke the I-90 tolling. Right now, the bill isn’t going anywhere, but the discussion will continue …

    1. Bad choice of words … system failure. HB2211 assumes that Scenario 6 in the tolling study will “work”. HB2319 implements Scenario 9, triggered by the assumptions in Scenario 6 proving insufficient to the task … in terms of how traffic is flowing (traffic diversion assumptions) or in terms of revenue assumptions being met.

      1. Thanks for the note Rep. Eddy. Very much appreciated to see the insight behind the bill.

        I think a drop of speed to 50% in one year is pretty drastic. Traffic slowdowns would much more likely kind of drip, drip, drip until it’s completely unbearable. Perhaps it should be 60% of the baseline speed at the time when SR-520 tolls begin. So if the speeds drop 40% over the four years after tolls are implemented, then I-90 begins tolling.

        Why choose the 405 corridor to measure speeds? Why no slowdown measure for I-90 congestion?

    2. Rep. Eddy, what do you mean that the bill isn’t going anywhere? Don’t we need to start tolling soon to get those Federal funds?

  7. So I have to buy a transponder for the 3 or 4 times a year I go to the eastside? Believe me the 520 is between 1/2 to 1/3 of the distance. On the weekend. I actually would not mind paying a bill, just hope it’s a bill that only includes a small handling charge and is not some form of punishing double whammy. I am not one of those ‘choosing’ to drive over a bridge to get to work every day.

    1. At the public hearing for HB 2211, they [the transp. committee] asked WSDOT on how to deal with very infrequent users and out-of-area travelers. They could have people prepay online or over the phone. You have 72 hours after crossing the bridge to pay toll after which you will receive a bill which will include an administrative fee. After 45 days the bill becomes a toll infraction with a $40 fine. That’s what HB 2211 proposed. HB 2319 leaves the enforcement rule-making to WSDOT.

      1. Cool. I can deal with that. I am a big fan of tolls and was upset that we did not revise the law to leave the tolls in place on the ‘Evergreen Point’ bridge in the first place. I mean that bridge goes places, like the expansion of 520. And, as predicted, it needed to be replaced. Frankly, all the freeways should be tolled IMHO. That way the costs are lower and more spread out. I mean isn’t it a highway ‘system’?

        BUT — I am not a fan of the transponders. I know it takes people to staff toll booths. That is jobs. And, something is just off for me to be tracked where I go and have it all done by billing when one considers the lifestyle of the very poor…

        Maybe the special lanes for those who choose to do the transponders/take the billing hit is best for the highways.. The 167 and 405, for example.

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