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State auditor: ‘Toll trouble cost state millions’

SEATTLE — A new report from the state auditor is critical of how the Department of Transportation implemented one of the most sophisticated tolling systems in the county.

SR-520-toll-signThe tolls on the State Route 520 Bridge will be used to pay for the span’s replacement.

The audit says in creating and implementing the toll system, the Washington State Department of Transportation lacked a clear vision, failed to address risk, and had insufficient policies and procedures.

“We have one of the best tolling systems in the country now, State Auditor Troy Kelley said in the report. “Obviously, it took some time to get there.”

Kelley’s report also said the company chosen to handle the electronic billing scored very low on its approach to technical accounting.

Problems led to a nine-month delay and what Kelley said was “a loss (of) $40 million in toll revenue, and that’s money we can’t get back.”

The tolling director for WSDOT, Patty Rubstello, disagreed, saying that toll money will be collected at the end of the contract.

Rubstello said WSDOT will go along with the recommendations made in the audit report, but also insisted that creating a new, high-tech system to collect tolls on the 520 Bridge was a huge and complex task.

“This is still new to the industry, doing this all electronic tolling and billing process, that’s really where the challenges were,” Rubstello said.

A public hearing on the audit will be held on Aug. 14.

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