SEATTLE – At least six weeks of rigorous testing of equipment and systems for tolling of the SR 520 bridge are planned to begin next week, and if successful, a toll start date will be set, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said today.
“We want to make sure this complex system is rock solid before tolling begins,” said David Dye, WSDOT deputy secretary. “We want to have complete assurance that the system can handle the thousands of drivers who will use the 520 bridge every day.”
Dye said WSDOT needs to run a series of tests over the next several weeks to demonstrate that the vendors have sufficient staff and equipment to manage photo tolling and can properly account for tolling revenues.
“We had hoped to start tolling on 520 this spring, even as early as April,” Dye said. “However, the system is not ready. We want to get started, but we also must do it right.”
Many SR 520 drivers have already started preparing for the start of tolling. More than 55,000 new Good To Go! accounts were opened in the past two months. Everyone else still has until Friday, April 15, to activate their account and receive $10 in free toll credits.
“We’re really happy with the public response so far,” said Toll Division Director Craig Stone. “We want to encourage people to set up their accounts now and avoid the last-minute rush we’re expecting once a tolling start date is announced.”
The start date requires that a number of elements be in place, including installed and tested equipment, new highway signs, sufficient active Good To Go! accounts in the area, accounting procedures, system integration, approved toll rates, technology upgrades and toll-enforcement process. Four primary vendors are working together to integrate the components, including:
· Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp. (ETCC), which operates the statewide customer service center.
· Televent, which manages the toll-collection systems for SR 520.
· Sirit, which manufactures the transponders.
· TransCore, which operates toll-booth collections and equipment on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Dye said a delayed start date for 520 tolling will not affect planned toll charges, which are used to pay off 30- and 40-year bonds for construction of the new 520 bridge. With a delayed start, bond repayments will extend out a few months at the end of the bond period, with a minimal increase in financing costs. Tolling on 520 is expected to raise an estimated $1 million a week.
All vendors will be held accountable for meeting their performance measures and ensuring tolling operates as planned, Dye said. All contracts include clauses related to liquidated and actual damages that WSDOT will enforce, as appropriate.
SR 520 will use all-electronic tolling, allowing drivers to maintain highway speeds by eliminating traditional toll booths. Toll rates will vary by time of day to encourage some drivers to shift their travel to off-peak hours. The state Legislature is expected to approve the toll rates prior to the end of session and submit them to the governor for signature.
To learn more about the Good To Go! program, visit www.GoodToGo520.org