Bring on tolls

As I sat in a sea of brake lights, trapped in traffic on State Route 520, plenty of thoughts danced through my head as my frustration mounted.

As I sat in a sea of brake lights, trapped in traffic on State Route 520, plenty of thoughts danced through my head as my frustration mounted.

First thing, I wondered how much a helicopter would cost and how long it would take to learn how to navigate one. I wondered if Children’s Hospital, a stone’s throw from my front door, would let me borrow their helicopter pad. I thought, “Is there such thing as a teleporter and where can I get one and how much is it?”

Then a more realistic thought popped into my head. Soon, I thought, the commute will get even worse when I have to pay to sit in this treacherous traffic, when the state begins tolling the 520 bridge as early as next year.

Talk about adding insult to injury.

But according to the 520 Tolling Implementation Committee, tolling will actually help ease traffic.

While the thought of potentially paying $12 a day to cross the 520 bridge to get to work can be depressing, the committee shows a bright side to bridge tolls.

Recent Web and phone surveys conducted by the 520 Tolling Implementation Committee, along with conclusions from a series of open houses, found that when tolls are in place, the 520 corridor traffic flow will actually improve because people will take alternate routes.

The results also revealed that there will be less people crossing the bridge, and the speed on the bridge will increase. Just like high gas prices, tolling will make some people take transit, carpool or vanpools.

Right now approximately 155,000-160,000 people cross the 520 bridge each day, so less is best in this situation. While tolling should improve traffic flow, it is also necessary for the long-term goal of raising money to replace the dilapidated, storm-wary bridge.

While some may disagree with the toll idea, we can all agree that the nearly 50-year-old bridge needs to be replaced before a giant catastrophe happens.

During the big windstorm last week, water was crashing over the side of the bridge onto the road and wind was jolting the bridge back and forth.

Let me tell you, it’s nerve-wracking and unsafe to manuever Chevy Trailblazer on a swaying bridge. There’s no doubt the proposed new six-lane bridge will improve safety and mobility, providing greater reliability for drivers and transit. Also, as part of the new bridge plan, a continuous high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction will complete the HOV system from Seattle to Redmond.

A 520 bridge toll could raise as much as $1.5 billion for the new bridge project, with a cost estimate range between $4.5-6.7 billion, according to the committee. A toll on I-90 could raise another billion dollars, the committee found.

Like I said, several thoughts can pop into my head on any given commute, which can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes and even worse when there’s an accident.

But I never thought I would say this: “Bring on the bridge tolls.”