Many drivers have seen a blue flash above the HOV lane on Interstate 405 north of State Route 522. A few have asked us what it is. It’s part of the toll equipment that will anchor 17 miles of new express toll lanes on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood in late 2015.
|If you drive I-405, you may have noticed toll equipment above|
the lanes in certain areas. This equipment is similar to
what’s on SR 520.
Throughout the year, crews have been installing towering green structures over the roadway, known as gantries. Now they are outfitting those gantries with the gadgets that will allow tolling to work, including toll readers, cameras and special beacons that help Washington State Patrol with enforcing proper use of the lanes.
The blue flash you’ve seen is from testing the toll cameras that will help us take photos of a vehicle’s license plate. You may have seen a similar flash if you’ve used the SR 520 bridge. After we install the cameras on I-405, we need to make sure they are ready to take photos day and night as we work to get the system up and running and ultimately start tolling in 2015.
Crews will wrap up installing toll equipment north of SR 522 later this year. After the new year, they’ll install equipment between Northeast Sixth Street in Bellevue and SR 522. Once everything is set up there’s still a lot of fine tuning and testing to be done before we can open the express toll lanes to drivers. In the meantime, no tolls will be charged, and the HOV lane will continue to operate the same way it does today.
The work we’re doing is part of a project to convert the I-405 HOV lane between Bellevue and Lynnwood to an express toll lane. In addition, between Northeast Sixth Street in Bellevue and SR 522 in Bothell, we’re building a second express toll lane to form a dual express toll lane system in both directions of I-405.
Why build express toll lanes?
If you use I-405, we don’t need to remind you that the highway experiences some of the worst traffic in the state, and the HOV lanes are often as congested as the regular lanes. New express toll lanes will let drivers choose to travel faster by paying a toll. The regular lanes will remain free for all drivers.
Toll rates will adjust depending on traffic to guarantee a faster, more reliable trip for express toll lane users including transit, carpoolers, or folks driving alone. As more drivers use the express toll lanes, traffic moves faster in the regular lanes.
We’re still working with the Washington State Transportation Commission to finalize a number of key decisions about the lanes, including carpool exemptions and rates, so stay tuned for more information early next year.
Still have questions about how the lanes will work? Check out our new FAQs.