During your visit to Seattle, you might find yourself wanting to head across Lake Washington to visit the Eastside. Hike around Snoqualmie Falls and visit filming locations of Twin Peaks. Check out the shopping and dining in Bellevue. Dine at The Herbfarm or enjoy a tasting at some of the great wineries that Woodinville, WA has to offer.
Whatever your travel plans, when driving to the Eastside from Seattle you have two options: Take Interstate 90 or the SR 520 bridge. While 520 may be your more direct route (google maps will help you find this out), you will need to pay a toll when crossing this bridge. This toll, launched December 29, 2011, varies depending on time of day you cross the bridge.
Saturdays and Sundays run a bit less costly than Monday through Fridays and you can expect to pay more during rush hour times. Between midnight and 5am, there is no toll on the bridge, but you can expect to pay between $2.60 and $5.00 at other times. Do note that tolls are collected going each direction. The Washington State Department of Transportation page provides up to date toll prices.
Drivers who live in the area and drive 520 often can take advantage of the Good To Go! program and purchase a prepaid card from the Washington State Department of Transportation. But for the many people who are visiting or don’t cross 520 often, you can simply wait to receive a Pay By Mail toll bill in the mail. This applies to out-of-state drivers as well and makes your trip simple and easy, if you are driving your own car.
If you are a renting a car, you will need to check with your rental provider directly. We suggest you talk to them about their policies when making your reservation, but you can also speak with them about how they handle toll payments when you pick up your car. Different rental car companies have different policies on how they pass the fees along to their customers and you may find that going a bit out of your way to take I-90 may be the best choice for you. Do note that traffic on 1-90 does increase considerably during regular commute hours. Worried about traffic? The WSDOT website provides pages on Seattle area traffic, traffic cameras and traffic alerts.
These bridge tolls are helping to pay for a new bridge, which is scheduled to open in 2014. This new bridge design will have HOV lanes that will help the bus system provide more frequent and reliable transit, a pedestrian and bike path, six lanes in total as well as shoulder lanes to help with traffic flow if an accident should occur.
If you have the flexibility and interest in taking public transportation, King County Metro and Sound Transit have added nearly 130 new bus trips to the previously existing 600 trips occurring daily on SR 520 Bridge. They offer an easy to use trip planning service on their website, here.
When visiting the Eastside, you may want to stay for a night to enjoy the many offerings this part of the region boasts, including great restaurants and shopping centers, such as Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square. If you are interesting in finding out more about overnight occomodations, we invite you to visit our Bellevue Hotels page, and then explore our Bellevue Restaurants Guideto find some of the great restaurants that will be in walking distance during your stay.
Regardless on how you make your way across Lake Washington, be it I-90 or 520, enjoy the view!
By: Keridwyn Deller — Keridwyn is the founder of Seattle Pockets, a blog exploring the many ‘pockets’ of life that Seattle has to offer in arts, wine, food and beyond.