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When we talked to him earlier this week, state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, predicted tolling would begin on State Route 520 in 2010. But the state Department of Transportation has just inked a deal with a Texas company that gives a spring 2011 date for tolling to begin on the bridge.

(Update: “We authorized it starting in 2010, and I assumed they would get right on it,” Hunter told us Monday morning by e-mail. “It keeps moving out as we try to make the technology work smoothly.”)

On Dec. 23, WSDOT signed a $23 million, five-year contract with Electronic Transaction Consultants of Richardson, Tex., to establish and operate a new statewide customer service center for toll operations.

The company will take over tolling for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and State Route 167 HOT lanes, and also will be in charge of 520 tolling. That means you’ll need just one transponder in your car to use either of the two bridges, or the HOT lanes. You can find out more about 520 tolling plans here.

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How will it work? According to the WSDOT release, “Tolling on the SR 520 bridge will be completely electronic; there will be no toll booths. All tolls will be collected electronically through prepaid Good To Go! accounts or by mail via a bill sent to the registered vehicle owner. Toll rates will vary by time of day to encourage some toll payers to drive during off-peak hours and thus reduce traffic congestion in the corridor.”

Over the past year, we’ve reported that peak one-way tolls could be between $2.15 to $3.80, although people would not balk at paying tolls as high as $6.85. According to a state study, people would rather pay the tolls than find another way across the lake.

If you’re a regular user of the 520 bridge, do you plan to adjust your driving habits after tolling begins to avoid paying to cross the bridge?

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