By on October 17, 2013

520_sunset510

It would appear as though the price of admission to traverse the longest floating bridge in the world on a daily basis has had quite the impact on commuting patterns in Seattle. A study to be issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week – barring another tragicomic display by the powers that be, of course – has uncovered that use of the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge – Evergreen Point (colloquially known as the 520 floating bridge) has gone down by half since tolling began near the end of 2011.

The tolls, ranging from $0 for late-night and early morning travelers, to $5.25 for those rush-hour commuters who prefer to pay the man by mail, have caused 9 out of 10 drivers to find another path to work and play across Lake Washington. The majority of those avoiding the toll have annual incomes of $50,000 and under, while those making $200,000 and above (and are no doubt enjoying the more open road) pay little if any mind to being tolled.

On the upside, more commuters are using mass transit due to the tolls – which were enacted as one of the five DOT demonstration projects under their $1 billion Urban Partnerships Congestion Initiative – with around 45 percent preferring to “ride the wave” than drown in a congestion pricing tsunami.

The information provided by the study will be considered by Olympia, Wash.’s best and brightest this week as they debate on whether to set tolls upon the other two floating bridges (both carrying east- and westbound traffic on I-90) over Lake Washington to help fund the construction of the 520’s replacement, set to open in 2014.

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71 Comments on “The bell tolls over Seattle, but not for most commuters...”


  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    it’s funny, you drive 520 at or near rush hour and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s less congested. Admittedly, there’s a good bit of construction on the east side boogering up the traffic flow, too.

    that being said, If I lived there, I’d probably follow suit and leave a bit earlier and go around to the southern bridge or maybe even loop around the top of Lake City to the north. $150-$200 month in tolls for someone living in the city proper and commuting to bellevue kinda sucks, but hey, people don’t want to pay realistic gas tax, and the money to keep that monstrosity floating doesn’t drift down the lake.

    At least the money is actually going to Wash DOT instead of like over here in NY/NJ where port authoirty bridge tolls go to pay for NJDOT projects.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      My understanding is most of my $450 toll money a month for going from nj to NYC goes to Mass transit in both ny and nj and to build the freedom tower as it is owned by the port authority as are the toll bridges and rails, the roads in NY are a joke and tolls just keep going higher and higher the only smart thing they have done is double the tolls in one direction and wipe them out in the other so less traffic on one part of your round trip commute

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      Unless you leave work before 2:30pm or after 7:30pm, it’s a long slow drive around the lake or around I-90.

      The 520 bridge suffers from that weird phenomenon where (at least going westbound) the traffic slows considerably for no good reason as it approaches the hill right before the bridge. It’s as if drivers are being extra cautious in case they built a brick wall on the other side of the hill. Usually the traffic clears as you get over the hill and enter the actual bridge.

      But there’s a bit of poor math education all around too. As there are electronic signs that tell you that going to Seattle via I-90 takes 70 minutes and the 520 bridge takes 25 minutes, tons of people will still take the free I-90 just to save $3-$4 and not remembering to calculate the extra gas, mileage, time, and wear and tear on the car going around an extra 5-10 miles and 45 minutes.

      I can’t wait until they toll the I-90 bridge. (Self-interest disclosure: I live near the 520 bridge)

  • avatar
    gmichaelj

    Well, they had to relieve congestion somehow. Building a bigger bridge or a tunnel seems out of the question in this day and age. Here in Atlanta, the “solution” is to take away freeway lanes and make them into toll lanes. I think the Greenies have pre-vetoed infrastructure expansion, and we’ll have to put up with longer commutes as a result. Too bad for the working class.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’ve never been to ATL, and I live in Ohio, but I’m around people frequently who work or live/lived there. The number one thing they mention about that city is the traffic problems, usually followed by how spread out everything is.

      I’m already soured on Atlanta and have never seen it. (Though I was in the airport once for a connection.)

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The solution isn’t more roads, but rather delete the commute in the first place. There are a lot of people who could do their job without going into the office every day. There’s no reason that so many jobs have to be concentrated in a business district. Zoning can promote jobs & housing for those working there to be adjacent.

  • avatar

    Seattle is built in a terrible location. Pinched between Lake Washington and Puget sound it has to have the floating bridges to get people out of the city and to the East. My guess is that most of those commuters who are avoiding 522 are going south, through Bellevue and then across I-90.

    If you live anywhere south of Kirkland, the idea of going around the North end of the lake is just silly. Going through Bothell and Lake City means a 10-15 mile slog on city surface streets that still leaves you right in the middle of stopped traffic North of the city center when you finally drop onto I-5. Anyone north of the Kennydale hill probably isn’t goping to loop around the south end because of all the traffic in Renton and then northbound I-5.

    If the state slapped a modest toll on both bridges, they would spread the cost among everyone who needs to cross the lake and have more than enough money to finance the new bridge. The best part is that people would stay on their normal routes and not cause problems downstream by diverting to save a few bucks.

    • 0 avatar
      SwingAxle

      Mr. Kreutzer, you are spot on with your analysis. I avoid the 522 floating bridge, not because of the toll, but because of the amount of the toll. Most people I have talked with about this say they would take the bridge if the tolls were more reasonable. The problem with starting to toll I90 is that the state is out of touch with what a “modest” toll is. Most feel that you’ll end up with both bridges tolled at current levels. A more modest toll on 522 would lead to more crossings, which in turn should lead to more revenue for the state, without tolling I90.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      520, 522 is further North and goes out to Munroe. I agree that a smaller toll on both bridges would be a good way to go. Right now the people avoiding 520 are just clogging up already contested I405 and I5. It’s worse in winter when all the bicycle nuts relent and take the car.

      • 0 avatar

        My mistake – I’m from the hills out between Monroe and Snohomish and logged many a mile crossing 522 back when I worked at Schuck’s in Kenmore. When I think about local highways with numbers bigger than “2″ or “9″ that’s the number I come up with.

    • 0 avatar
      SOF in training

      An odd reason I no longer will use the 520 bridge is that it is no fun. When they were paying off the original bridge, the toll was .25, then .35 (more than the cost of a gallon of gas!), and it was paid to an actual toll taker. I would pay my toll, and for the person behind me. That person would then drive like crazy to find out who just paid their toll!

    • 0 avatar

      Wow. Strangely enough, were having similar problems with our I-90 here in Chicago. It was never “finished” , siamesed with Is-94&80, the only “free” ways around Lake Michigan. And guess what? Those freeways are jammed with interstate traffic that want to avoid the $6 to $30(for heavy trucks)toll. The wasted time and diesel amounts to some $7B yearly by estimates that are several years old.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Well, building all this stuff ain’t free. You can pay for it with tolls, which hit low-income folks proportionally harder, or you can decide it’s a “public good” and pay for it with taxes on property and income.

    Here on the east coast, more than one state is considering tolls for I-95 to pay for refurbishment, and the people opposed to tolling the road are the same ones opposed to transportation bonds and tax increases. Yet it’s in horrible shape, congested, and in dire need of an overhaul (which needs to start soon before bridges start collapsing.)

    No free lunch, folks.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      I am fine with paying tolls to build or fix something as long as my toll money goes there, in NY they said tolls on the bridges until they are paid off , well after 50 plus years they are paid off yet tolls are still there know a cash cow for everything under the sun, tolls are fair you drive the road you pay for the road

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Maryland is one of those eastern states in the process of adding toll lanes to I-95. This in addition to the $16 northbound and $8 southbound tolls in place now.

      This because the gas and vehicle tax funded transportation fund is routinely looted to boost spending in the public schools (at $15,000 per student per year and counting) and a full third of what’s left is spent on public transportation instead of roads.

      There is a free lunch. Drivers are buying it for other people.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        +1 Dan. Happens all over the country. Just one more stash spot for the addicts. It just goes straight up their noses. People can’t understand it when people complain about the roads but don’t want to raise the gas tax. This is why.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        For shame.

      • 0 avatar
        phreshone

        +100

        There’s about 8¢ of profit in a gallon of gas, while the government(s) take > 50¢ /gallon. The political theft is amazing, all while they point fingers at the oil companies and scream ‘windfall profits’

        1) enforce maintaining gas tax receipts in ‘trust funds’ not available for general state/federal accounts
        2) open up US lands for drilling and drive down prices
        3) increase gas tax once price is back down to $2 – which the futures market would do within 6 months if you do #2

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          The $0.08/gallon profit, in light of:
          - Subsidies paid by the government.
          - Money they don’t have to spend for military escort/protection of their supply lines.
          - Money they don’t have to spend for building infrastructure to promote usage of their products.

          2) open up US lands for drilling and drive down prices

          It won’t. It’ll be sold on the open international market. Oil doesn’t exist in a closed-off domestic market and the local consumer won’t feel any different because the oil goes overseas.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            Nope, there are no special oil company subsidies; nope, the US military’s protection of global free trade isn’t solely for the oil company’s benefit; and nope, read up on supply and demand.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Most oil we use comes from NA (domestic, Canada, & Mexico), and really doesn’t involve military protection.

            The only way more domestic production would lower the price is if it would flood the market (supply exceeds demand), but if we could produce that much, you can sure bet that OPEC would dial down their production to keep the total supply (and thus the price) constant.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        In a society where nearly everyone is a driver, there is nothing inherently special about gas taxes or road tolls. They’re just another form of tax.

        Having said that, it is fair to use taxes to encouage policy goals, such as promoting the use of public transportation or reducing tobacco use.

        It is also fair (and necessary) to use taxes to pay for vital social services, such as education – which history has shown can be more properly described as an investment than as simply a service.

        Maryland, it seems, does spend in the range of $13,00-14,000 per student on public education. I suppose it could spend less – heck, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee all spend less than $9,000 per student – but it seriously impacts the outcomes.

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          I don’t get the outrage of spending $15k per student annually.

          That’s $10/hr per student for a 9 month school year.

          I can’t get a babysitter for $10/hr. Let alone one that will tutor my children.

          My mother was a purchasing agent for a prison. You have no idea what a bargain public education is compared to what they spend in prisons. Triply so in privatized prisons.

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            Comparing individual instruction to mass education — let alone “tutoring” to whatever passes for teaching in government-run schools nowadays — is disingenuous at best.

            For the last few decades, we’ve heard that small class sizes are critical to success, so education needs more money. We gave it to them, and what happened? Salaries went up, the number of administrators exploded, and class sizes crept right back up again. No more.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Agreed Darkwing.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          It’s one thing to raise tolls or motor fuel taxes to encourage a certain behavior (for example, encourage people to use another route or mass transit).

          It’s another matter to divert the revenues from tolls or taxes to completely unrelated spending (for example, diverting gas taxes to the basic education appropriation) – and then try to justify an increase by complaining that the current revenues can’t pay for needed improvements or maintenance.

          Also note that there is no definite link between student achievement and the level of educational spending. California spends roughly the same amount as Texas on a per-pupil basis (and both states have faced similar challenges in educating large numbers of students with English as a second language). Texas students have generally outperformed California students.

          In Pennsylvania, the Harrisburg School District and Philadelphia School District regularly spend more per pupil than our home district (East Pennsboro School District). They do not achieve superior results.

          Here is what CNN (hardly a right-wing media outlet had to say):

          “Make no mistake: Spending a lot of money doesn’t mean a kid is getting a good education, and spending less doesn’t mean it’s bad. Per-pupil spending comes up often because it’s among the few easy-to-compare measurements that crosses school, district and state lines, said Matthew Chingos, a researcher with Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.

          ‘Per-pupil funding is a pretty terrible measure of quality of education,’ Chingos said. ‘In some case, it matters, but sometimes it’s hard to find evidence it matters.’”

          The idea that spending on education and spending on prisons are related is a red herring. I hear that argument all the time in my job by a steady stream of public education advocates. There is no proof that increased spending on basic education (meaning, kindergarten through 12th grade) will result in lower spending on corrections.

          Corrections spending is driven by the number of inmates and various court decisions mandating what conditions are acceptable.

          Again, the Harrisburg School District and Philadelphia School District spend more than our home district (on a per-pupil basis). Guess which two have a higher percentage of students who end up in a county, state or federal prison…

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “It’s another matter to divert the revenues from tolls or taxes to completely unrelated spending”

            We already use bond financing, deficit spending and the general fund to pay for roads. Since when did tolls become a sacred cow?

            The reality is that we generally spend more than we take in, which is why we run deficits. Roads are expensive; if anything, our costs per mile are too low, as the roads are built to a standard so low that they require excessive maintenance.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            They became a “sacred cow” when we’ve been told that the road or bridge in question was tolled to pay for maintenance or upgrades, and it turns out that this isn’t the case. I’m not paying higher tolls if revenues from the current tolls are being diverted to another use.

            In that particular case, yes, it’s a sacred cow. It was initially pitched to the public as a user fee, not a revenue source for other appropriations in the general fund.

            Strong proponents of government spending on infrastructure should be against this sort or “bait-and-switch.” It is really corrosive over the long haul, and makes the general public (not just Rush Limbaugh fans) very cynical about government spending. I run across it in my job all the time.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Toll roads are often money losers, particularly when they’re privatized. Several toll road projects have filed for bankruptcy. Close to home for you, the Pennsylvania Turnpike produces losses, even when payments made to the state DOT are taken into account.

            http://www.paturnpike.com/geninfo/PTC_CAFR_12-11%20_FINAL.pdf

            These cows are not only not sacred, but they aren’t producing any milk. Transportation infrastructure is largely a cost center, not a profit center.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Whether one pays it as income tax, sales tax, property tax, gas tax, road tolls, other user fees, drivers licence fees,licence plate fees, excise tax, or whatever, all the money one pays to government is tax – whatever the politicians call it. Pure and simple.

            Governments need money to deliver the services and programs that elected officials put in place. The only source for that money is the populace. Which is us (broadly stated).

            Any notion that certain forms of tax must be earmarked to specific uses is just bad policy. It can only lead to artificial distortions in the economy that may benefit specific interest groups, but will add to the total cost that taxpayers have to pony up.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            According to two successive state Auditor Generals – Jack Wagner and Eugene DePasquale – the Pennsylvania Turnpike was fiscally sound until Act 44 of 2007.

            Here is a snippet from the August 27, 2012 edition of the Harrisburg Patriot-News:

            “The turnpike’s liabilities now exceed its assets by more than $1.3 billion, a sharp turnabout since 2009, when its assets exceeded its liabilities by more than $150 million.”

            This act required the Turnpike Commission to make annual payments to PennDOT. The payments were originally were supposed to be generated by the tolling of I-80, but that plan fell through when the federal government refused to grant the state’s request.

            ect: Any notion that certain forms of tax must be earmarked to specific uses is just bad policy.

            That statement is rather broad. Obviously, not EVERY tax can be specifically earmarked for a specific project, asset or appropriation, nor is it a good idea to attempt to do so. But it’s a good idea to keep user fees such as tolls dedicated to the maintenance and/or upgrade of a specific part of the infrastructure.

            And it isn’t just tolls and motor fuels taxes. Here in Pennsylvania, local property taxes are levied by, and earmarked for, school districts. I doubt that you would make much headway if you suggested to said school districts that the revenue from local property taxes should be sent to Harrisburg – or even the county – for distribution to the school districts as the state or county saw fit.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Geeber is correct, per Wikipedia:

            “The turnpike commission raised tolls by 25 percent on January 4, 2009 to provide funds to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for road and mass-transit projects, as mandated by Act 44.[45][46] This toll hike brought the rate to travel the turnpike to 7.4 cents a mile (4.6 cents per kilometer), or 8 cents per mile (5.0 cents per kilometer) today.[33][47] At this point, an annual toll increase was planned.[4″

            Penndot, the Port Authority, and SEPTA are probably the three biggest financial black holes in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians are forced to flush more and more of their money down the toilet every year on them.

            “Again, the Harrisburg School District and Philadelphia School District spend more than our home district (on a per-pupil basis). Guess which two have a higher percentage of students who end up in a county, state or federal prison…”

            Pittsburgh City Schools planned to spend $521.8 million for 2013, according to the second link in 2010-11 they spent the ridiculous sum of $22,000/student. They rank 470 of 498 in Pennsylvania according to the third link. I would argue higher spending actually decreases chances for school district success. The solution to the problem is to break up the school districts and allow the schools to directly compete, but the uneducated yinzers and teacher union thugs would be up in arms if this were even suggested.

            http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-public-schools-board-passes-5218-million-general-fund-budget-667015/

            http://www.openpagov.org/education_revenue_and_expenses.asp

            http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/top-scoring-school-districts-in-state-hail-from-allegheny-chester-bucks-montgomery-counties-58324577.html

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “This act required the Turnpike Commission to make annual payments to PennDOT”

            As I noted, it would be losing money even without those payments.

            Last year, the road had cash flow from operations of $408 million. But then $431 million was spent on land and improvements (which don’t hit the income statement), and about $588 million was spent on bond principal and interest.

            The balance sheet shows in excess of $8 billion in bonds. Those bonds have to be serviced, but they’re needed because there aren’t sufficient sources of other revenue that can provide the necessary funding.

        • 0 avatar
          darkwing

          The desire to set policy needs to be balanced with — I would say subordinated to — the obligation to impact the economy as little as possible. Too many people forget that.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I-95 is a toll road for about 1/2 of its length in Maine. And guess what – it’s the best maintained road in the state. I think it is about a $4 toll from Portland to NH.

      We used to have a really great unlimited use paid quarterly commuter plan that they recently ditched for a discounts for usage in a month plan. This was effectively about a 4X toll increase for most commuters. They should have kept the commuter plan and jacked the non-commuter rates into the sky. I am all for fleecing the tourists, if you live here and depend on the road to get to work you should get a big break.

  • avatar
    harshciygar

    BRING ON THE TOLLS.

    It is one of the fairest way to tax road use, especially since raising the gas tax is pretty much impossible to use in this country. Once people get sick of tolls, they start taking public transit, unwittingly saving them fuel costs as well as wear-and-tear on their cars, in addition to saving money on tolls.

    Social engineering? A little bit, but also immensely more practical, safer than driving a car, and a solution to some of America’s most serious infrastructure problems.

    • 0 avatar

      I woud certainly argue that gas taxes should be able to pay for roads just fine. Combined state and federal taxes are over $0.50 per gallon in my state, and if that can’t pay for roads, I think roads are costing too much. As others have noted, a lot of this pays for insanely expensive public transport projects that, statistically, almost nobody uses.

      I’d be less upset about tolls if I could get a rebate on gas taxes based on the tolls I paid. Paying twice for roads looks like a real gyp to me.

      The Florida Turnpike costs about $0.02 per mile if you get 25mpg. Tolls (via Sunpass) cost about $0.06 per mile. So the tolls, thanks at least in part to high collection costs, are several times as expensive as gas taxes. Seems to me I’d rather pay via gas taxes than tolls, even if they were raised a bit.

      D

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Combined state and federal taxes are over $0.50 per gallon in my state, and if that can’t pay for roads, I think roads are costing too much.”

        Give this man a cigar, he’s nailed it.

      • 0 avatar

        Roads are expensive. My province, Saskatchewan, has only 1.1 million people and spends $480 million a year on roads… and that excludes most urban infrastructure, which is paid for by the cities themselves. Atop this, major transportation infrastructure gets federal contribution so it might not be insane to say that we spend a billion dollars a year on roads (certainly approaching that figure) in a little, backwater Canadian province.

        I’m not a big fan of tolled roads, but I do like the option of being able to pay a toll to avoid heavy traffic. I can decide if I’m more worried about cost or time, and choose accordingly.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Ah but why are roads expensive? What’s the break down in costs and how can it be made more efficient?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            This. You’d think by now they’d have “cheap, durable road building materials” down pat. Is no one researching this?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The biggest cost by far to construct a road in a built-up place like Seattle is land acquisition. For instance, to expand I-5 through downtown Seattle (its worst choke point) you’d have to buy literally billions of dollars’ worth of land, which currently has high-rise apartment and office buildings on it.

            Labor comes in a distant second. Materials are barely any of it.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        There is no inherent logic in restricting the use of road tolls to road construction. Like it or not, taxes have social as well as financial impacts (as harshciygar notes).

        Ultimately, the consumer/taxpayer pays for everything, however the money is taken from his/her pocket. Governments use a variety of tax measures to do this – ideally, the balance among these should reflect policy goals as well as financial requirements. In practice, of course, the mix is always less than ideal, but that only validates the principle.

        One cold reality is that modern cities cannot build enough roads, fast enough, at an affordable cost, to meaningfully reduce traffic congestion. Public transportation is required, and its use should be encouraged. It also needs to be paid for, so using road tolls and other taxes to both improve public transportaion and give people a financial incentive to use it makes good sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      All fine and well but when the public transport takes 3 times longer than a car, is hopelessly confusing, needs 2+ transfers to go anywhere useful and is often a home for the homeless during winter…
      Most Bus routes in Seattle are affected by traffic to.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The real problem with public transportation is the public is on it.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        We’re doing this wrong in the US. South Korea has it worked out, and they have probably the same percentage of homeless as here – since they have NO social support system. (Though maybe less, as people are more motivated to get off their @ss and get a job.)

        The buses and subways are clean and orderly, and well lit. There’s not a bit of trash anywhere, and if something gets spilled (I saw this happen once), within 1-2 stops there is a group of cleaning ladies who will hop on and clean it while it travels to the next stop, hopping back off when it’s finished. No disruption in schedule. The trains are always on time, with only 1-2 connections needed for even the longest journeys. I lived in a city with over 3 million people. I could traverse the entire city via subway in about an hour, for something like $2.25.

  • avatar
    jc130

    two years ago I traded the hell of Seattle traffic for the hell of the Washington, DC beltway and I-270. I have used all three ways from the eastside to downtown seattle, and each had its problems as other commenters have mentioned. 522 through lake city…a fool’s errand. did that for two years and it was a crawl, especially when the weather turned ugly and the days got dark. did 520 for a few years, and the HOV lanes stop a mile before the bridge, which always annoyed me. Then the 520 merges to I-5 and you have to cut across four lanes to exit on Mercer or Denny, that was always fun. Going to Sonics games? Get comfortable. I-90 floating bridge, part of which collapsed and sank during construction in 1990; I wait for that to happen to the new 520. Buses are the only game in town for mass transit across the bridges, and park and ride lots are free (at least when I lived there), so it’s a no-brainer.

    funny, when I read “the other two floating bridges” I wondered if they slapped a new one up since I left. I think of I-90 as one bridge, but they do reverse directions when at rush hour. But it’s always been perplexing to me that they tolled one and not the other. Building the new bridge in Tacoma to Gig Harbor, they didn’t drop the toll to the old one, did they? Granted, they are right nest to each other.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Seattle is in desperate need of infrastructure development… desperate. The viaduct that has been about to collapse for the last 10 years, 520 is about to sink, I5 has not seen proper maintenance for 50 years, one of the bridges in the condition (according to WSDOT)collapsed a month or two ago, highway 509, my favorite “road to nowere” needs completing to take strain off I5 and a useful light rail going North… and so on.
    No one wants to pay for anything though.
    Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing etc. all bring thousands of jobs and people to the area but the infrastructure has not moved with the economy. I don’t see any effort by these companies to help with this challenge that they mostly created either!
    I did 520 for a year, in that time the cost went up twice. I did not mind in the sense that there was NO other sensible route… Going by bus would have tripled my commute time and I still would have to have walked fairly far, not that I mind walking but in Seattle winter walking in the rain and cold gets old fast.
    Having said all of that, the toll for 520 is very steep and is causing congestion every were else. It’s too high, bring the price down, toll I90, add on to the already high gas tax, my car is economical so I don’t care that much…

  • avatar
    Hummer

    The entire system needs to be rebuilt, own road construction company one has to have millions, you do part, get paid, the longer it takes the worse the situation becomes.
    Allowing more companies the ability to take on these contracts would help lower the cost. Gas tax is too high as it is, as many times as the govt collects taxes from fuel it should be more than enough to have every inch of road in this country as high as a grade A.

    The only thing toll roads do for me is give me an enjoyable ride out of the way.

  • avatar
    readallover

    This one is kind of funny since 520 was originally a toll bridge (they tore out the old toll plaza in the late 70`s or early 80`s). I remember panicking to see if I had enough change to get from Seattle to deliver on NE 8th in Bellevue.

  • avatar
    Maharetnin

    Your numbers seem weird: “use of the Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge … has gone down by half” and “9 out of 10 drivers to find another path to work and play across Lake Washington”.

    SO use has gone down by 50%, but 90% of prior users are diverting? Does that mean that they are only diverting part of the time, or that 10% of the people are now using the bridge constantly?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Self-driving cars will eliminate most of these congestion problems, because they can be packed together much tighter and still maintain decent speed – thus road expansion should be less often needed. Road tolls will be automatically processed and billed on your credit card, and since the need for mass-transit will largely disappear, most of the tolls will actually be used to maintain the roads rather than subsidize unprofitable buses and commuter trains.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Okay, I’ll bite. Why do Seattle-area bridges float? Terrain won’t support pilings?

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Lake Washington is very deep, I believe.

  • avatar
    tkmedia

    dont know about seattle, but usually very deep water or the soil at bottom of the water is unsuitable.

  • avatar
    z9

    Per-mile taxes might be fairer than tolls and gas taxes.

    If you have a car that gets very good mileage, you pay a lot less in gas taxes than someone with a car that gets terrible mileage to go the same distance. Indeed gas tax revenues are decreasing as the fleet average of gasoline consumption goes down. Typically people who can afford new cars (paying lower gas taxes per mile driven) are wealthier than people driving old cars, so over time the gas tax is becoming even more regressive than it already is. In Washington state, owners of electric cars pay $100 a year to compensate for lost gas taxes.

    Distance traveled is both a public benefit and a public burden. The burden involves, among other things, wearing out roadways and creating traffic congestion, which ultimately leads to road construction. Driving also causes pollution, accidents, noise, and urban sprawl. And new roads take productive farmland out of service. Certain roads or bridges cost more to repair when they wear out or expand when they become inadequate. Other roads are worse for society when people use them.

    Roads with higher costs could be priced higher if one wanted, either through techniques such as congestion pricing — something that seems to work in London — or supplementary toll booths placed every couple of miles, as is done on the highways in Japan.

    Pretty soon everyone will pay per mile for their car insurance. I predict it will seem ridiculous not to do it.

    Why not pay for road use the same way?

  • avatar
    amca

    Ha! I remember when the Evergreen Point Bridge was a 35 cent toll. Everyone was delighted when they finally retired the toll. It was a thrill to whiz past that wide spot in the road where the toll gates were.


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