Expanded tolling on SR 520 to pay for project may be coming

Feb 29, 2024, 6:06 PM | Updated: 6:17 pm

Image: SR 520 bridge construction work continues. Expanded tolling on SR 520 may be coming....

SR 520 bridge construction work continues. Expanded tolling on SR 520 may be coming. (Photo: Chris Sullivan, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Chris Sullivan, KIRO Newsradio)

There isn’t enough money in the budget to finish the State Route 520 (SR 520) project so the Washington State Legislature may expand tolling to make up the difference.

Estimates to build the final section of SR 520, between Montlake and Interstate 5 (I-5), are running 70% over budget. The legislature needs to find at least $560 million to fill the gap.

A bipartisan bill, SB 6316, would expand tolling to help fill that gap. Right now, tolling is only allowed on the floating section of SR 520. The bill would remove that limit and expand the ability to toll drivers from I-5 in Seattle to the end of the line in Redmond. (A PDF of the substitute bill can be viewed here.)

It would also allow the state to defer tax costs for construction.

The bill has passed the Senate and is moving quickly through the House. Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-sponsored the bill.

It would take effect 90 days after the session, though implementation would have to wait for new tolling equipment to be installed. A tolling and revenue study would also be completed before implementation.

Support for expanded tolling on SR 520

According to the Senate Bill Report, the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) is supportive of the bill and wants to work with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) on potential impacts through that study. (A PDF of the Senate Bill Report can be viewed here.)

The report also states member outreach with residents impacted by the West End project showed “some would be OK with paying tolls to finish the project.”

Previous tolling scenario reports evaluated possible tolling in multiple locations in the corridor and otherwise.

The bill report also states the current West End project is “important for mobility and safety.”

“Numerous residents rely on the corridor for work purposes,” the report continues. “A delay on the project will cost taxpayers more on an already vulnerable bridge. The project will connect active transportation users to multiple areas.”

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

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