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Here’s why driving on the shoulder won’t help you avoid Narrows bridge tolls

Driving on the shoulder will not help you avoid the toll cameras at the approach to the eastbound Tacoma Narrows bridge, state officials say.
Driving on the shoulder will not help you avoid the toll cameras at the approach to the eastbound Tacoma Narrows bridge, state officials say. Staff file, 2007

Q: Why doesn’t the state do something to keep drivers trying to avoid the toll cameras at the Tacoma Narrows bridge from swerving into the breakdown lane? – Jack S., Gig Harbor

A: Jack told us here at Traffic Q&A headquarters that he sees this behavior occasionally.

He wondered why the Department of Transportation doesn’t “simply put an orange cone on the shoulder to avoid that effort?”

We put the question to Transportation Department officials, who passed it along to Meredith McNamee, a communications consultant for the toll division.

“We have found through past experiences that cones and other similar deterrents do not stop this sort of behavior,” she said.

By the way, McNamee said, pulling such a stunt won’t get you out of a toll bill anyway.

“There is instrumentation in place to capture drivers who illegally drive on the shoulders in an attempt to circumvent the toll cameras,” she said.

Trying some fancy driving maneuvers while still in the main travel lanes – think serpentine – also will get you nowhere.

“The pass readers on the toll plaza have overlapping read range, so a Good to Go! Pass can be read regardless of position in the lanes,” McNamee said. “The license-plate cameras also have an overlapping field of vision and capture multiple front and rear images of each vehicle.

“There really isn’t a strategy that works for avoiding tolls on the Narrows bridge.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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