The Washington Department of Transportation proclaimed the second morning of tolling on the state Route 520 bridge Friday, "smooth sailing," like the Thursday test drive, but the real test will come next Tuesday when commuters go back to work and school en masse.
Traffic was even lighter Friday morning than the first day of tolling, and alternate routes Interstate 90 and state Route 522 experienced no travel delays, according to WSDOT. SR 520 traffic volumes were down about 50 percent from earlier in the week.
“Because of the holidays we haven’t seen major congestion on other corridors across Lake Washington,” WSDOT Toll Division Director Craig Stone said. “We want everyone to plan for Tuesday and give themselves some extra time as we expect traffic to change across and around the lake.”
On Thursday, 44,300 trips took place on the 520 bridge, 60 percent fewer than on an average weekday. The I-90 bridge saw 141,600 trips, a 3 percent increase, while SR 522, which winds from Seattle through Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Bothell and Woodinville, had 33,800 trips on Thursday, 1 percent less than a typical weekday.
Regionwide traffic volumes this week are down 20 percent from a typical week, according to WSDOT.
WSDOT traffic engineers are crunching the latest data from the first two workdays. They’ll be looking for clues for what traffic patterns might look like on Tuesday, when many commuters return from the holiday. They expect traffic to be significantly different and that it will take months to settle into a new normal.
"The key is providing real-time information to drivers so they can make choices," Stone said.
While it is early, an expected trend is starting to emerge. Daily commuters who travel between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. are more likely to have "Good To Go!" toll passes than midday and evening drivers. Peak commuters have a 75 percent active pass rate; midday drivers have a 56 percent rate. Overall, on Thursday, 58 percent of drivers had a Good To Go! Pass and 42 percent will be sent a bill in the mail based on their license plate.
Besides the effect of tolling, there are many other factors that determine traffic volumes such as the season of the month, rainy or dry weather, major events and the like.
“What we’ve seen so far is encouraging,” Stone said. “The majority of SR 520 commuters who worked this week had a Good To Go! pass, and they saved $1.50 each time they crossed the bridge. We appreciate their patience and effort.”
So far, 153,352 Good to Go! accounts for the 520 Bridge have been opened and 229,857 passes have been issued.
Stone also said that obscuring your license plate by a variety of methods is illegal and in most instances the scanning technology will get the plate anyway. If you totally hide your plate, you will be tracked and the State Patrol will be notified as has been the case on the Tacoma Narrows bridge, which is tolled as well.
For early Good To Go! pass buyers who bought their passes before May, there is a $10 credit that is assigned to their account. The first several tolls will go toward the credit and drivers will be notified via mail in a statement at the end of January. The credit is valid through the end of March.
If you haven't already, pick up a pass. Buy any of the five pass options online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/goodtogo.
- Purchase the popular $5 sticker pass at participating stores: Costco, Safeway, Fred Meyer and QFC. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/goodtogo/retail for a list of retail locations.
- Visit a service customer service center or a mobile customer service station. Find locations and hours online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/GoodToGo/contacts.htm.
- After you purchase a Good To Go! pass, activate and install it.
- Update existing account information, including credit card or bank information and vehicle license plate numbers.