Tolls Approved for 520 Bridge: At $3.50 Each Way, That's $1,750 a Year for Daily Commuters

There's pretty much no way around it, 520 commuters--you'll soon be paying more to drive to work. The final votes of the Washington State Transportation Commission are in today, and they've all agreed that $3.50 each way during peak hours is going to be the damage.

So for a Bellevue worker who lives in Seattle and works banker's hours Monday through Friday 50 weeks a year (that's minus two weeks vacation), that adds up to a cool $1,750 per year.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, 155,000 people drive back and forth over the 520 bridge each day. Charging each of them $3.50 each way would bring in $1,085,000 every day.

Still, with a $4.6 billion price tag on the bridge--with about $2 billion slated to come from gas taxes, state and federal grants--it will still take about six or seven years of tolling (at very best) before enough funding is rounded up to pay for a new bridge--and that's assuming scores of people don't just start avoiding the bridge altogether and taking other routes like I-90 or north around Lake Washington.

There is some respite from the $3.50 toll (which is better than the $5 proposed not long ago) during off-peak hours and nighttime hours, to be $2.80 and free respectively.

And there's still some slight hope that the state legislature will vote against the tolls, or at least not break the two-thirds-majority threshold needed to approve the rate increase.

Not that many people will sleep easy knowing that Olympia politicians are their last bastion of hope.

Still, people need bridges and bridges cost money, so unless Uncle Steve Ballmer decides that instead of buying a sports team he's going to buy a bridge for his Microsoft employees, come spring people will need to start budgeting a bit more of their paychecks toward getting to work.

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