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Drivers find faster evening commute on SR 520

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Date:  Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Contact: Good To Go! customer service 1-866-936-8246.

SEATTLE – Drivers found a faster evening commute across the newly-tolled State Route 520 bridge on Tuesday, Jan. 3. While more drivers chose alternate routes like Interstate 90 and SR 522, congestion was still fairly typical.

“Traffic definitely picked up today, but overall it still appeared lighter than normal region wide,” said Patty Rubstello, Washington State Department of Transportation toll systems engineering director. “I think some drivers are still enjoying the holidays. But those who returned and took 520 found a fairly smooth, reliable commute, and even saved some time.”

Drivers saved four to 10 minutes across SR 520 during the evening commute. Traffic volumes were at about 60% of an average, pre-toll workday.
Traffic will continue to build as more people return to work and school. The rush hour will start earlier and end later as drivers adjust their commutes.

“We know tolling on SR 520 is a big change for commuters; the adjustment process is going to take some time,” said Rubstello. “It’s going to take months for traffic to reach a new normal. Traffic patterns will change as drivers adjust.”

Travel times
Data paints the traffic picture for the evening commute. It is far too early to identify trends using today’s data:

SR 520
• Traffic volumes on westbound SR 520 from Bellevue to Seattle dropped
35 percent and drivers traveled up to seven minutes faster during the evening commute. The typical westbound travel time from 4-6 p.m. is 15-30 minutes.

• Traffic volumes on eastbound SR 520 from Seattle to Bellevue dropped 45 percent and drivers traveled 4-10 minutes faster. The typical eastbound travel time from 4-6 p.m. is 15-25 minutes.

• Drivers used I-90 as an alternative to SR 520. Westbound I-90 traffic volumes increased three percent and travel times were up to seven minutes faster than normal. The typical westbound travel time from 4-6 p.m. is 15-45 minutes.
• Eastbound I-90 from Seattle to Bellevue traffic volumes increased by seven percent and travel times were normal. The typical eastbound travel time from 4-6 p.m. is 11-25 minutes.

SR 522
• On SR 522 from SR 202 in Woodinville to downtown Seattle, westbound traffic volumes increased six percent and travel times increased up to seven minutes. The typical westbound travel time from 4-6 p.m. is 35-60 minutes.
• Eastbound SR 522 from Seattle to Woodinville traffic volumes increased five percent and travel times increased up to 13 minutes. The typical eastbound travel time from 4-6 p.m. is 30-45 minutes. Incidents on I-5 contributed to delays between Woodinville and downtown Seattle.

• Traffic volumes on northbound I-405 just north of I-90 increased by 12 percent, while traffic on southbound I-405 in the same location increased by 2 percent.

• Traffic volumes on northbound I-5 at Olive Way decreased by one percent and southbound decreased six percent.
Data shows a large majority commuters have the GoodToGo! pass. Through 6 p.m. Tuesday, nearly 74 percent of all daily bridge drivers had the pass.

About tolling on the SR 520 bridge
Tolling on SR 520 is expected to raise $1 billion overall toward the $4.65 billion SR 520 bridge replacement and HOV program, which builds 12.8 miles of safety and mobility improvements from Interstate 5 in Seattle to SR 202 in Redmond. The existing SR 520 floating bridge opened to traffic in 1963, and is vulnerable to sinking during a severe storm after weathering decades of wind and waves. The new bridge will better withstand storms and move more people across the lake with a new transit/HOV lane for buses and carpools in each direction. The target date to open the new bridge to traffic is December 2014.

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