The 520 bridge, which most people already know became the first toll road in Washington this year, has seen a major decrease in traffic since the tolls went into force. Of course, as a result, traffic on alternate routes across or around Lake Washington has increased. As a Seattle auto collision attorney, I have seen the relationship that can exist between the level of congestion on roads and the number and severity of auto collisions. According to KOMO news, after less than a year in effect, 520 bridge tolls will see a slight increase in July. 2.5% annual increases are part of the plan by WSDOT for each year through 2015, so that this July, peak toll rate will go up by 9 cents, while the lowest off-peak rate will rise 3 cents. About half of the traffic on the 520 bridge moved to other roads when tolling began, but since January, bridge traffic has increased some. WSDOT reports that February bridge traffic is about 17% higher than expected, with slightly higher revenue as well. The revenue from the 520 tolls is slated to help pay for the cost of replacing the bridge itself.
Some traffic returning to the 520 bridge is good news for everyone who commutes around Lake Washington. The bridge still represents a faster, more direct route for people who are willing to pay the toll in order to save time. For those who would prefer to save the toll, those alternate routes have become slightly less congested than they were a couple of months ago as some of the traffic begins to return to the bridge.
Of course, there are clear downsides to increased congestion in addition to the lower convenience, including the potential for more serious car accidents. Whether right in Seattle or outlying communities like Redmond, at rush hour there not only tend to be a heavy load of cars on the road, but many drivers are distracted or inattentive because they are tired, stressed out, or just preoccupied with work issues. I cannot stress enough the importance of trying to leave these issues for other times. Of course, you can’t just turn off stress, but while driving, our thoughts and attention need to be on the road. When minds wander, the road can become dangerous.