SR-520 Bridge TollingThe Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has yet to set a date for the SR-520 to begin its tolling. The tolling was first announced in 2009 and scheduled to begin in October 2010.  This date was then pushed back to spring 2011, then summer 2011 and now, indefinitely.  When pushed for a date, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, did not give a firm answer. 

SR-520 Bridge TollingThe Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has yet to set a date for the SR-520 to begin its tolling.

The tolling was first announced in 2009 and scheduled to begin in October 2010.  This date was then pushed back to spring 2011, then summer 2011 and now, indefinitely. 

When pushed for a date, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, did not give a firm answer. 

Hammond cited issues with office operations and outside contractor Electronic Transaction Consultants Corporation (ETCC) as the hold-up. 

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge project is also operated in conjunction with ETCC.  Reported issues include defects in auto-replenishment, the system not informing users about low balances, an inability to distinguish between low and negative balances, and tag numbers and license plates not being read properly, said WSDOT Deputy Secretary Dave Dye.

“We’re going to get this right,” Hammond said.  “We will not and cannot send a system out with problems.”

Hammond points out that the toll readers, cameras and transaction processing tools are all working and that WSDOT and ETCC are running the final testing period.  They need to make sure back office operations work, she said.

There are three stages of the testing period, Hammond said.  The first is accounting.  During the second stage, the team runs 1000 transactions.  The third is volume during which the team runs 20 actual non-live volumes. 

The team is currently on stage one of three, Hammond said.

WSDOT put out a request for a proposal regarding 520 tolling in a small industry in 2009.

“We really felt like ETCC provided the best value at the time,” Hammond said. ETCC is the collector of 1/3 of the current electronic tolls in the U.S; this includes the Illinois Tollway, which is experiencing similar problems.

When asked about WSDOT’s confidence in ETCC to finish the 520 project, Dye said, “[We’re] working on a six” out of ten. 

Hammond wants to assure taxpayers they are not paying for the extended overhead costs.

ETCC has been fined $2 million of its original $25 million paycheck so far.

Each week, the 520 tolling is not in operation, Hammond estimates the loss to the state is $1 million. She does not consider the delay lost revenue and rather, expects to catch it on the downstream. ETCC will be fined $300,000 per week after July 9 until the tolling begins.

“There’s a moment when you can’t proceed with the floating bridge,” Dye said.  “We’re not there yet.  By this fall, we’ve got to have a good handle on the tolling system.”

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