SR 520 Tolling update

520 Bridge Toll sign

I arrived in Seattle yesterday for work and rented an Avis car at SeaTac airport.  The last time I was here, the 520 bridge was going to have electronic tolling active and in place by April, so I’ve assumed this trip will have tolls on 520.

When I picked up the rental car, I asked at the rental desk if they had information about the tolls on 520 and what a rental car would need to do in order to cross the bridge.  He looked at me with a slightly confused look and said that I’d be able to use my credit card to pay any tolls when I crossed the bridge.  I asked what that actually meant and how it would work, since there isn’t a tollbooth.  He asked me to wait a moment and the manager came out.

The manager told me a story of his foreign friend who visited Seattle recently and used a different bridge a lot, the Tacoma Narrow Bridge, which has had tolling active for a while.  His friend didn’t realize that “Good to Go” was the name of the program of electronic tolling.  She had instead thought it meant she was fine to proceed, and she did this over the course of a week until the car owner who loaned her the car received a bill in the post for $55 for unpaid tolls.

“Wow, that was a great story, thanks for sharing” is what came to my mind.  As you may imagine, it didn’t actually help answer my question.  The only guidance they could offer is that of the two bridges that cross East-West across Lake Washington, I-90 will remain toll free and SR-520 will have tolls.  So maybe I should just use I-90, that way I don’t have to pay tolls.

This conversation wasn’t really going where I needed it to.  So I thanked them and drove off.  And then researched the reality of the 520 toll situation.  Here’s the cheat sheet as of now:

  1. The starting date for tolling has been pushed back and is expected sometime in May or June 2011.  You can search for the latest on “520 tolls start date
  2. You can register for electronic tolling with an affixed sticker to a car, a transferable sticker movable between cars, pay by mail (bills you via the registered owner of the car), or with no pass at all but tied to a specific license plate number.  Each has slightly different cost structures but it’s nice to see a range of options that covers the frequent commuter to the rental car user, and every in between.  Lots of detail and registration on the official Good to Go site.

And lastly, you can enjoy the fun promotional video below on 520 tolling.  You’ll need to be okay with the creative license that these people paying tolls are just way too happy!

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