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How to avoid penalties for Seattle tunnel tolls

Tolling in the SR 99 tunnel. (WSDOT)

How do you turn a $2 tunnel toll into $50? You blow off your toll bills in the mail.

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Good To Go use in the Seattle tunnel is running about 83 percent. That means 17 percent of users are paying by mail, waiting for the bill to arrive after their trips. If you failed to pay that bill during the first weeks of tunnel tolling, you will soon start seeing a much larger bill in the mail.

Civil penalties of $40 are now going out for drivers who have failed to pay the toll bills that have come in the mail. Patricia Michaud is the customer service operations manager for Good To Go.

“Perhaps I didn’t realize the tolling had started,” is one of the many customer comments to her staff, she said. “I get that bill and think ‘oh I’ll take care of it later,’ and it escalates to civil penalty. Then ‘oh my gosh’ I have my toll plus $40 plus the $5 reprocessing fee. So that’s a big hit.”

Civil penalties go out 80 days after your trip if you fail to pay your bill, but Michaud said you can get those penalties wiped just by calling customer service.

“We give customers an opportunity to pay the toll, and we’ll waive the fee and the penalty,” she said. “Then we solve the problem.”

Drivers get to use this waiver once, but Michaud said Good To Go will work with drivers if they are having continuing issues. Some of the most common problems include a bad address on the account, your credit card has expired, or bad pass installation.

If you fail to pay the civil penalty or handle the problem, you will not be able to get your car tabs renewed.

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The best thing to do is call customer service and work it out.

“If they’re having problems with their account or if they are getting tolls bills that don’t make sense, call us, and we’ll figure it out with you,” Michaud said.

I’ve actually gone through the waiver process. I got a bill in the mail after driving 405. I thought it was a mistake since my car was registered. It turns out I hadn’t registered it before I made the trip. I called customer service. The agent waived my penalty.

Historically, about two percent of all pay-by-mail bills end up in civil penalties.

If you used the tunnel without a Good To Go pass in the first few weeks of tolling, do not blow off that bill in the mail.

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