Nearly 64,000 transponders have been issued to vehicles that are likely to cross the new Tacoma Narrows bridge, but most of those toll-paying decals seem to be stuck in limbo instead of stuck on vehicle windshields.
“We know there are lots of transponders sitting in people’s houses that have not yet been installed,” Janet Matkin, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation’s Good To Go toll system, said Tuesday. “So we are encouraging people to install their transponders and make sure everything is working properly.”
Bridge project workers have been testing the tolling equipment to make sure it works before the bridge opens July 16. There haven’t been any major glitches, Matkin said.
While people are setting up debit accounts so they can pay their tolls without stopping at a booth, they aren’t so quick to install the transponder decals.
This past week, an average of 45,000 vehicle each day crossed the existing bridge heading east, the direction of travel that will be tolled when the new bridge opens. But only 10 percent of them had transponders, she said.
“That’s nowhere near where it needs to be,” Matkin said.
Traffic engineers would like to have 50 to 60 percent of morning commuters use the automatic toll-collecting devices instead of stopping to pay because that will keep traffic flowing smoothly. If too many cars have to stop at the tollbooths, traffic could back up from the toll plaza to the Highway 16 mainline and cause congestion.
So far, 28,292 tolling accounts have been set up with a total of 63,684 transponders for vehicles. That exceeds the goal of 25,000 accounts by the bridge opening. But it doesn’t help if drivers don’t install the decals, Matkin said.
She said drivers can drive across the bridge in eastbound lanes to see whether they’ve put their decals on correctly. Their accounts will be reflect a “zero charge” if they cross the bridge during the testing period, which is likely to last until the bridge opens.
Drivers can check their accounts online a day after crossing the bridge or check their end-of-the-month statements to see whether the bridge sensors recorded their crossing.
Joseph Turner: 253-597-8436
HOW TO GET A transponder
There are five ways to find out more or to sign up for a Good To Go bridge transponder.
Mail: Applications can be mailed to PO Box 5050, Gig Harbor, WA 98335-5050.
In person: Customer service centers are located at 3212 50th St. Court, Suite 200, Gig Harbor, and 2115 S. 56th St., Suite 306, Tacoma.
A LOOK AT BRIDGE TRAFFIC
If most Tacoma Narrows bridge users sign up for electronic tolling, then traffic is less likely to get backed up at the tollbooth.
Here’s a look at actual eastbound traffic over the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge during the past week.
So far, only 10 percent of the eastbound traffic has activated transponders.
Day, Date Vehicles
Monday, June 11 44,305
Tuesday, June 12 45,381
Wednesday, June 13 44,908
Thursday, June 14 47,231
Day, Date Vehicles
Friday, June 15 47,841
Saturday, June 16 42,722
Sunday, June 17 41,128Source: Washington Department of Transportation