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Toll rate increases approved for SR 99, 520, and Narrows Bridge

Sign showing toll rates for drivers with a Good To Go! Pass and Pay By Mail customers on SR 520. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

There was little discussion. There was little debate. Only one person from the public took the time to testify before the Washington State Transportation Commission.

The toll rate increases proposed last month appeared to be a fait accompli as the commissioners took up the issue Tuesday. The meeting was scheduled for two hours, but it only took half of that.

Ferry fare rates will increase 2.5% this year and next

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll will be going up $0.25 in October. The 99 Tunnel toll in Seattle will be going up a flat 15%, which pencils out to $0.15-0.35 depending on the time of day. The 520 Bridge toll will go up by a tailored 15%, with the peak hours in the morning and afternoon being extended by an hour each.

The vote to adopt was unanimous: 7-0.

Commissioner Jerry Litt said they were put in a tough place with the toll revenues decimated by the pandemic, and with the Legislature punting on more money for the roads. The state could default on its loans if it failed to raise the rates, according to the testimony from financial experts.

On the 99 Tunnel increase, several commissioners worried that if it gets too high it would force people to divert, clogging downtown Seattle streets.

“We are very concerned, as we were at the beginning of this process a few years ago, about diversion,” Litt said. “We did everything we could, I think, in this process to keep it as low as we possibly can.”

How much time did Seattle drivers safe on the roads in 2020?

The tunnel increase will take effect Oct. 1, 2021. So will the increase on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The 520 Bridge increase won’t begin until 2023 because the state was able to secure federal funding to off-set its losses.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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