Washington state’s tolled roads
The Washington State Department of Transportation began implementing tolls in 2007. Tolled roads and bridges help fund new projects throughout the state, as well as maintain current infrastructure.
SR 520 Bridge
Tolling the State Route 520 Bridge across Lake Washington began after the old bridge was complete in 1963 and continued until bonds were paid off in 1979.
The state began tolling drivers again in 2011 to help fund construction of a new floating bridge.
When the new SR 520 Bridge opened in the spring of 2016, tolling continued.
Tolls collected on the new SR 520 Bridge help pay off construction bonds. They also pay for operations and maintenance, debt service, insurance, and deferred sales tax.
Toll rates increased in 2017.
There is no end date to tolling the bridge.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge
In 1998, voters approved construction of a second bridge between Tacoma and Gig Harbor to help alleviate traffic backups.
The new bridge opened in 2007.
Drivers heading to Tacoma on State Route 16 are tolled between $5 and $7, depending on if they use a Good to Go pass, toll booth, or pay by mail.
Drivers are tolled for trips to Tacoma, but not return trips.
Tolling is expected to continue through 2032, when bonds that financed the new bridge should be paid off.
SR 167 HOT lanes
The State Route 167 high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes opened in 2008, and stretch from Auburn to Renton.
Solo drivers must pay a toll, while vehicles with two or more people use them for free.
Toll rates range between 50 cents and $9. All drivers can use the lanes free of charge after 7 p.m.
The state’s long-term vision is to build out a 40-mile toll lane system between SR 167 at the Pierce/King County line and the I-405/I-5 interchange in Lynnwood.
I-405 express toll lanes
The I-405 express toll lanes opened in 2015 as the state works to keep traffic flowing in a constantly growing region.
More than 57,000 vehicles use the toll lanes each weekday.
Rates range from 75 cents to $10. They are free to use on weekends.
Since opening, the toll lanes have generated more than $34 million in revenue. Gross revenue in their first year of operation was well above what the state initially projected.
Sixty percent of revenue is used for future improvements to I-405. That includes maintenance and projects such as building out hard shoulder driving. The other 40 percent is used to pay for customer service and billing, operations, roadway toll system operations and maintenance, and several miscellaneous items.
While the toll lanes continue to make plenty of money, they are not hitting a critical benchmark of providing a 45 mph trip 90 percent of the time during peak hours. Though the toll lanes are not hitting that benchmark, it appears the state is currently unwilling to end tolling. The state attorney general’s office authored an interpretation of the law that further backs up the justification for keeping them.
The future of tolling
SR 99 tunnel
Drivers who use the new Seattle tunnel will be charged a fee. Exactly how much that costs is still up in the air, though it likely won’t cost more than $3 per trip.
With work wrapping up on the tunnel itself, the state says we can expect it to open by October. However, that tentative opening date depends on whether crews can also complete other projects, including connecting both ends of the highway to the tunnel and tearing.
Seattle mayor wants congestion pricing
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says she wants to see some form of congestion pricing for surface streets in the city, at least in the downtown core.
Durkan wants to implement congestion pricing in the city by 2021 — the end of her first term.
The reasoning behind it is two-fold, reducing greenhouse gases and reducing the number of people driving in a city that can’t handle any more traffic.
Before any congestion pricing is implemented, Durkan said the city will do “deep outreach.”