The 520 bridge toll: Big time savings
When tolling started on the 520 bridge on Thursday, December 29, 60% fewer cars crossed the bridge than on a normal day. It was clear that many people were diverting to avoid the tolls. Everyone knew the real test would start today, January 3, when most people were returning to work from the holiday vacations.
I took the bridge around 8:00 a.m. this morning, Eastbound, and it was one of the best commutes in a long time. I came back to Seattle around 6:00 p.m, and again I experienced no delays -- until I got to I-5.
In all, it took 20 minutes to drive 15 miles this morning using 520. (Average time in the past was around 30 minutes.)
In the evening, it took around 30 minutes to drive home -- mostly because I-5 was backed up. (Average time in the past was around 45 minutes.)
According to the WSDOT site, things went pretty well on 520:
- Westbound SR 520 from Bellevue to Seattle was 5-7 minutes faster. Traffic volumes dropped by 45 percent from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Typical travel times are 15-20 minutes. Volumes edged up a bit in the 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. hour after a disabled semi-truck blocked one lane on westbound I-90 on Mercer Island and pushed drivers to SR 520.
- Eastbound SR 520 from Seattle to Bellevue was 5-7 minutes faster. Traffic volumes dropped by 35 percent. Typical travel times are 12 -20 minutes.
The same wasn't true for I-90, the bridge that doesn't have a toll:
- Drivers used I-90 as an alternative to SR 520. Westbound I-90 traffic increased 25 percent until the disabled semi-truck blocked one lane on Mercer Island. During the incident, traffic dropped 8 percent below average. Travel times increased by 15 minutes during the incident.
- Eastbound I-90 traffic increased by 20 percent and travel times averaged 4 minutes longer. Typical travel times are 10-16 minutes.
I've heard a lot of talk about this new toll -- mostly negative. But it sure was nice to have a smooth, fast commute for once. I'll be curious to see if this continues.