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New Narrows transponder readers up and running

Post by Kim Bradford on Sep. 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
September 15, 2011 5:39 pm

New equipment that can read the latest generation of Good to Go transponders is installed and functioning on the Tacoma Narrows bridge, state transportation officials announced today.

The state paid $300,000 for the new readers, which also can read the older Good to Go passes. As we reported last month, the cost will be charged to state Route 520 toll payers because tolling the 520 bridge over Lake Washington was the impetus for the state buying a new generation of transponders that couldn’t be read on the Narrows bridge.

Before the upgrade, crossings by vehicles with the old transponders had to be manually processed by workers after viewing camera footage of vehicle license plates. The state expected to forgo as much as $600,000 a year in lost tolls under that system because not every license plate could be read.

The state Department of Transportation said toll payers can expect one other change from the upgrade. Previously, Good to Go customers were able to pay electronically at the toll booths. Now, those customers will need to use the Good to Go toll lanes or the 24th Street on-ramp.

“Upgrading the readers at the toll booths is not a wise investment,” WSDOT Toll Division Director Craig Stone said. “The 100 daily transactions those readers processed did not merit the $90,000 price tag to replace them.”

Soon, even drivers without Good to Go accounts will be able to bypass the toll booths. The state plans to introduce photo tolling on the bridge in December. Under photo tolling, drivers without transponders will be mailed a bill for $5.50 unless they stop at the toll booths, where the crossing will still cost $4.

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