Monday, February 23, 2015

I-405 Express Toll Lanes Part 1: What is the problem?

By Jennifer Rash

Big changes are coming for I-405 drivers later this year. We’re building express toll lanes on southbound and northbound I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood as part of a larger vision to help ease traffic on one of the state’s most congested corridors. One of the biggest changes coming this fall is a proposed change in the HOV requirements from two or more people to three or more people during peak commute hours, part of the toll rate and exemption proposal by the Washington State Transportation Commission.

We’ve heard a variety of reactions from folks about this proposal, and decided to tackle some of them in a two-part blog series. In this first post, we will discuss the problem we’re facing through a series of common questions we’ve received. In the second part, we’ll talk about how express toll lanes are part of the solution for I-405.

The ABC’s of HOV Lanes
To get to the solution, we have to start at the beginning. Return with me, won’t you, to November 1992. Aladdin opened at the box office, in Nashville, the great Miley Cyrus was born, and in Olympia, WSDOT adopted its Statewide Freeway HOV Policy. It was a magical time.

The main goal of HOV lanes was (and still is) to maximize the movement of people rather than vehicles, whether that’s in a carpool, vanpool or bus.  The target is to keep traffic moving consistently at a minimum speed of 45 mph to provide a reliable trip.  By reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles on the roadway, HOV lanes also help improve traffic in the regular lanes.  For example, when 15 people opt to get out of their cars to ride the bus or carpool with a co-worker, it removes up to 15 cars from the general purpose lanes.

Animation illustrating how HOV lanes work.

In 1994, the HOV Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Report showed that the majority of respondents in a public opinion survey supported HOV lanes and overwhelming supported that all HOV lanes should be open to vehicles with two or more people.

What’s happening with HOV lanes on I-405 now?

Congested HOV lane on I-405.
Fast-forward 23 years. If you drive I-405, you’ve likely experienced that the HOV lanes are often as congested as the regular lanes during peak periods. That’s because there is too much demand for the lanes. Last year, WSDOT completed the I-405/SR 167 Funding and Phasing Report which found that the existing carpool lane north of SR 522, the one lane section of the future express toll lanes project, is at capacity during peak periods. It also found that there are 200 or more days a year when speeds are below 45 mph in the HOV lane on southbound I-405, south of SR 527.

What is causing the increased demand?
There’s a clear connection between the break down in the I-405 HOV lanes and population growth on the eastside.  U.S. Census data shows that over the last 10 years, Seattle’s population grew seven percent, while the population on the Eastside, from roughly the Snohomish County line to Newcastle and everything east of Lake Washington to the crest of the Cascades, increased 15 percent.
Washington’s residential and employment populations are only projected to increase.  In the years ahead, the population of the city of Portland will be added to our region. We have a tremendous challenge to accommodate this massive growth.

Shouldn’t growth mean building more regular lanes?
That’s a common perception, but over the long term, it’s been shown time and time again that new lanes eventually become congested and simply add to the problem. We also must keep in mind that continually adding lanes our highways could also have impacts to local streets. We know from experience here and across the nation that we cannot simply build our way out of congestion, and we know that we need to get creative to manage the growing demand on our roadways. One of the best ways to do that is to learn from what’s working in other states facing similar challenges.

What is WSDOT doing to create solutions for increasing demand on I-405?
Over the last decade, WSDOT has worked with cities, counties, federal agencies, transit agencies and community groups to develop consensus on a long-term vision for the multimodal redevelopment of this highway. We adopted a multi-modal approach to ease congestion on I-405 that included, adding more lanes, improvements to local roads, increasing transit service, adding park and ride spaces and vanpools, and the possibility for an express toll lane system. 

After three published studies on I-405 express toll lanes, one of which was review by a panel of nation experts, WSDOT is implementing express toll lanes on I-405. Express toll lanes are a proven strategy for congestion relief that have been implemented, studied and expanded across the country.

In the next post, we’ll discuss how express toll lanes will work in Washington as part of the solution for I-405.

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see this happening. In my opinion, all lanes should be tolled during peak use hours, and non-HOV lanes should be tolled at higher rates. Supply and demand affect prices for everything else we use, why not freeways as well?

Susan Mortimer said...

Dear Anonymous, Why are you Anonymous? There are so many issues at work here I don't know where to start. All lanes tolled at peak hours? Are you serious?! Don't we already pay taxes to fund roads?! Aren't we paying to use the roads?!
Every Monday my friend and I take the 405 North to Lynnwood to meet a friend for dinner. We take the carpool lane at 5:30-6pm. It is always open and flowing (even in the rain) so I don't know what the author of this blog is talking about. Once that ramp to 522 is completed the traffic will open up and be free flowing through Bothell. The 405 South through Renton is another issue. It is the merge at Coal Creek. I don't think we need to toll at all. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

So the choices are have money or suffer more? This is super awesome for minimum wage workers

Susan M. said...

I left a comment yesterday, but it wasn't published?! The toll lanes are just to make more money for the state. The gas tax funds roads. The problems on the 405 north at 160th are because of the bottleneck. Once that ramp is completed the traffic will flow better. The carpool lane is rarely blocked past the 522. I drive it every Monday between 5:30-6p.

Anonymous said...

Personally, this just removes any incentive to carpool. There's a huge difference in coordinating a 3 person carpool vs. 2 person.

The only people this helps are those who can afford the $10 each way toll. Everyone wins when the BMW gets to work early and my carpool trip takes 20 minutes longer?

Bus routes and parking haven't changed in Canyon Park. It's still full at 6AM. Nice try.

WSDOT said...

Express toll lanes are there when you need them. People of all income levels benefit from the option to have a faster, more reliable trip. Maybe its not an everyday thing, but when you need to get to an appointment on time, pick up a child from daycare or you woke up late for a meeting, the express toll lanes are an option. Also, national examples show that express toll lanes improve traffic across all lanes. After express toll lanes opened on I-95 in Miami, HOV lane speeds tripled and general purpose lane speeds doubled. We don't know if we'll get similar results on I-405, but we are confident that they will help improve traffic on one of the most congested highways in the state.

Anonymous said...

I like that your animation shows a shift to two person carpool getting you into the hov lane. Maybe add a dollar sign as the third passenger

Anonymous said...

Does anyone take into account that one of the reasons people commute into Bellevue is because they cannot afford to live in Bellevue? And how these new charges are going to impact their budget? It's not like I can walk up to my boss and demand a wage increase. Despite the fact I'm already part of a two person carpool. Everyday.

Anonymous said...

'Experts' agree - you should be charged more for what you are already over charged for. The Washington State Transportation Commission is simply a rubber stamping hand-picked partisan group allowed to make driving harder and more expensive on our families.

Anonymous said...

'Experts' say we should pay more for transportation we are already overcharged for!

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest problems now are the cheaters in SOV'S using the HOV lanes.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems is that the HOV lanes are restricted in all directions all day. In the San Francisco area, the restrictions differ depend on the direction you're traveling and when "peak" is for that direction so that if you are traveling "counter" commute then there is either no HOV lane restriction or it is for a much shorter period of time. Most commuting is done before 7 PM yet we end up with congestion that could be alleviated by opening the HOV lane to all at 6 or 6:30. And yes, one reason the HOV lanes get just as congested as the regular lanes are because of cheats.

Anonymous said...

I travel down 405 to work every day. Eery other week I also bring my son to school in Issaquah. They carpool lane is the only way I will be able to perminantly continue this comute.And now I learn that the lanes are changing to 3 or more??? And the other option is to pay 10.00? So as long as I have the money to pay 50.00 a week I can get my son to school in an hour. Otherwise now, with the additional cars pushed into the main line it could take us 1.5? This is not a solution for the the people but just to make $$ to pay back a solution that is not what the people want.

Susan M. said...

You are correct. People can't afford to live in Bellevue (or even the Eastside) so they commute. 425 Magazine did an article about who lives in Bellevue and works in Bellevue and it is only 5%! The rest come from outside. But the biggest shocker is 50% come from outside the Eastside and Seattle! They are coming from Lynnwood, Renton, Kent etc.

Anonymous said...

I think the project is INSANE....it is making money for the contractor that performs all of the tolling duties while some of the cream goes to the WSDOT. Do we want to spend taxpayer (gas tax funds) money to fund a contractor? --My answer is NO I do not. Do I think a second HOV lane that is tolled and increases the carpool from 2 to 3 persons will help ease congestion--NO I do not. I think the DOT is making it HARDER for traffic to flow, not easier. Although I am happy that the gas prices are down to more reasonable levels that still does not mean I have extra money to throw at paying tolls. I do not commute along that corridor--I use it to go from Kenmore to Bellevue occasionally and it is great being able to use the HOV on the off hours. When this goes away, traffic will be heavier in the later evening hours--this is NOT HELPING ANYONE! One of the first paragraphs states that the DOT wishes to ease the commute then in another paragraph it states it wants to move people not cars...INSANITY! Oh 10 more people will opt to ride the bus? Where do they park? When I used park and rides years ago most times I had to park out on the street because it was filled. And don't even get me started on the crime in those park and rides. Yes, this is a solution....NOT!

Anonymous said...

In reply to Anonymous that thinks all lanes should be tolled. I sure hope you don't work for the DOT (although it sounds suspiciously like you do) -- You can pay for me to drive it! I already paid for the ability in my gas tax, registration, and federal tax, which if I can't get to my job then I cannot afford to pay those things.

Anonymous said...

Let's build a monorail down the middle of I-405. park and rides at various locations along the way. I didn't see anything about rail listed in this blog.

Tjp said...

The real win would be to create I-605 from Everett to Tacoma and remove a substantial amount of through traffic from I-405 and I-5. (BTW did the state get Federal funds for the soon to be tolled lanes, and if so did they get permission to exact a toll on them?) I-605 could follow the SR2 right of way, to Monroe, then follow the Carnation Duval Road right of way and then by eminent domain pick up the 1-2 miles (would have been easier 20 years ago when I first saw the problem and solution) to connect to SR18, etc. It requires minimal new land, though would require widening the right of way on some portions, and a service road in parallel (on the existing roads anyway). Minimal by highway standards effort. And it would only add 10-20 minutes to the full zero traffic time to bypass the congested Seattle and Eastside. Put a commercial vehicle toll on the bypassed portions of of I-5 and I-405 and make I-605 4 or more lanes wide in each direction with allowance for growth. Extend 520 to connect and install a 522 entrance, I-90 as well. And then a couple of planned convince exits to even traffic flow and use. Make strategic center Islands and lease commercial space to gas stations and truckstops, diners, etc.
It makes fiscal sense, it relieves traffic removing large commercial trucks from the busiest corridors. And it costs commuters less. I don't travel the 520 bridge now. I use I-90 and spend the extra average 2 minutes on my trips into Seattle. Normal HOV commuters in some number will leave the HOV lanes rather than pay a toll, causing even greater congestion in the normal travel lanes. Eventually though the sheep will pay the price and move back into the toll lanes, paying money to the state which feeds increased government size, rather than spend it on commercial purchases which grow the economy. Really I-605 would do us a much better favor than feeding the existing bureaucracy.

DStudley said...

Looks to me like the animation does magical hand waving since by 7am the park and rides are full, and the commute hour buses are standing room only. Pretty hard to force more people into buses if the buses are already full and so are the park and rides.

Anonymous said...

Horrible. DOT is not concerned at all about transportation, they are into social engineering. This is so very very wrong.

Anonymous said...

In what part of the blog will it be explaining how the move from two to three person in the HOV lane does anything other than move more cars into the general lanes... No way that can help overall traffic congestion..

Anonymous said...

Before tolling began again on the Eastside approach to 520, the carpool lane was changed to 3 persons with no apparent ease of congestion. Yes, tolls relieve congestion in the tolled lanes and drive it unfairly into the other lanes and surface streets for everyone who can't afford the daily luxury of tolls on top of their commute. Raising the occupancy to 3 entirely reduces the incentive to carpool for most of us so geographically spread out. The same applies to using the current transit system which so poorly serves anything but the main transit centers.

Anonymous said...

Why are carpools required to have a Good To Go account to use the lanes for free? That should not be necessary.

Anonymous said...

Traffic is bad, and population is set to increase, meaning increased population density, and increased viability of mass transit. What about creating bus lines to RELIABLY serve the suburbs where people live, and creating contracts with MORE churches (or other businesses) to use their mostly-empty parking lots as park & rides????? You are still building more lanes, and you said it yourself, you can't build your way out of congestion with more lanes.
~~Civil engineer who relocated from Bellevue to the south sound where I can now actually afford to live near my job.

Anonymous said...

Where is Tim Eyman when we actually want him?

Anonymous said...

I see the requirement of having 3 person carpools to use the toll lanes for free pushing many 2 person carpools into the general purpose lanes, clogging them further. The only reduction in the general purpose lanes will be those rich enough to pay for the toll lanes. This achieves the opposite of the DOT's stated goal: it moves cars (with one person) into the HOV lanes and moves people (2 person carpools) into the general purpose lanes. More people have slower trips. Why does this make any sense? It's hard enough to organize a two person carpool. Nearly impossible to organize three.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with 405 right now is people driving 60 MPH or less in the fast lane and creating a back up behind them before realizing it. This back up leads to eractic driving and more congestion for all lanes. Make the left lane 70 MPH, the middle lane 65 MPH and the slower drivers can use the far right lane at 60 - MPH, then have cops monitor for people going under the speed limit in those 2 far left lanes and you create a smoother commute. And those expensive "Go 45 please" even when there is no traffic around and the real sign says 60... Explain how that helps anyone.

Anonymous said...

I think paying for use of lanes will just allow those with more income to drive in the "tolled" lanes and those with less income will sit in the backed up lanes. It appears this is where we are headed.

Anonymous said...

Check out the animation again! Non toll lane drivers don't have to worry. According to the animation, the non-toll lanes will be freed up once the new rules are implemented! Sweet!

Anonymous said...

I see nothing about motorcycles. Are they still going to be allowed in these lanes without toll?

The Geezer said...

Well, the folks have certainly spoken.

This whole project is morally bankrupt!. The other day I was looking at travel times, and under CURRENT configuration, time in the HOV lane was HALF of the GP lanes.

Half

And now we need more HOV? And to buy a pass if you are eligible to use if for free.

Political hacks have shown their hands.

deathfromabove58 said...

I live in Monroe and work in downtown Seattle. I work a flex shift of 4-10 hour days and carpool with a buddy of mine who was able to get the same days and hours of work. I agree with a previous poster that requiring to add a 3rd person will become a logistical nightmare for us just so we can drive in the HOV lanes again and not be tolled. We used to take 520 to work but started taking I-90 instead due to the tolls. Instead of trying to find another carpool dummy or paying this idiotic toll (read WSDOT extortion), we will leave earlier in the morning and drive in the general purpose lanes on 405 coming to work. When driving home we will then take I-90 to Preston/Fall City and take 203 to Monroe (we can do this until the state starts to toll I-90, which will be coming next people!!). Yes, I know, it is going to add a few more minutes and a few more miles to the drive, but we will not have to mess with all of the "Good To Go" crap and will not be paying into the state extortion slush fund. Beat the system when and where you can.

Alex B. said...

I think this will be a big backfire to the WSDOT. We are spending millions on adding a second lane on the 405 so that we can have 2 carpool lanes between 522 and Bellevue? But yet I am seeing that there will be fewer people willing to pay the tolls for peak times (up to $10) just to shave off oa few minutes from their commute. $10 = 2 latte's given up. $10 a day x 120 average work days a year - $1,200 a year for what? I think Washington State has become way to toll/tax happy, IMO.

Anonymous said...

In what surprises absolutely no one, It's like Net Neutrality, just for roads.

Anonymous said...

I understand what Express lanes are "supposed" to do. The more people in one car, the less cars there are. Where is the study that shows how many legal drivers actual live close enough and work close enough that they car pool. Also, why should a legal driver with a baby or a non-licensed person be allowed to use the HOV lanes, as those situations are not reducing the number of cars.

They stated above:

Shouldn’t growth mean building more regular lanes?
That’s a common perception, but over the long term, it’s been shown time and time again that new lanes eventually become congested and simply add to the problem.

I just don't understand the logic. It seems the average time per vehicle would be faster for 10,000 cars spread out over 4 lanes, as opposed to 3 lanes with an HOV lane. And now you want to make the HOV lane a toll lane, so if you pay for it, you can use it??? This has nothing to do with managing traffic and everything to do with revenue.

Anonymous said...

I left the WA lunacy but am proud to admit that when I lived there I drove by myself in the HOV lanes when I chose. HOV and bike lanes are about 50% of the pavement in the area. I used an HOV on ramp for 5 years without problems, except for the self appointed do-gooders shaking their little fists at me. I am a free person.
Car pool lanes were empty N of Bellevue when I drove them. Restricting usage is just a way the state extorts more money from the workers. I'd bet many govt. workers get free passes - all US people tend toward corruption, top to bottom - so that should be expected.
I thought the line about "not being able to build one's way out of congestion" was the best bit of the article. I am happy to see increased tolling on all the WA roads. The tree hugging car haters deserve their self-inflicted congestion.

WSDOT said...

Thank you for all of the comments. We understand that the new express toll lanes are a big change for many drivers, and we want to work with you to help make this project a success. A few points of clarification:
Toll Rates - we project that the average toll in the express toll lanes will be between 75 cents and $4.
Congestion Relief - drivers opting in to the express toll lanes, whether HOV or not, will remove vehicles from the regular lanes, helping to reduce congestions across all lanes.
Fairness - data from other systems around the country show that the express toll lanes are utilized by drivers of all income levels.
Revenue - the revenue from tolls will fund future I-405 improvements, including roadway maintenance.
Enforcement - Washington State Patrol will provide enforcement of the toll lanes, similar to the SR 167 HOT lanes.
HOV change - the 3+ HOV requirement proposed by the Commission would only be in effect during peak, weekday commute hours.

The final policies for tolling rates and HOV requirements are still being set by the Washington State Transportation Commission. If you'd like to share your feedback to the Commission, the last in-person meeting is March 18. For those that can't attend in person, you can also comment by email to transc@wstc.wa.gov (include 405 ETL in the subject line), online at http://wstc.wa.gov/ContactUs/feedback.htm or in the Voice of Washington State (VOWS) forum at http://www.voiceofwashingtonstate.org.

More information about I-405 express toll lanes can be found on our website: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/.

The Geezer said...

WSDOT's comments are self-serving.

Since each HOT conifguration is different, suggesting "data from other systems around the country" apply to us is bogus.

Average toll? That is a term to obfuscate, for certain.

Yes drivers will remove vehicles from regular lanes, but so do more regular lanes!

3+ requirement still requires more "gear" and allows the gub'mint to track your movements, and insures more gub'mint (or their contractors) jobs.

The Geezer has spaketh!

Oh, and if you are wondering, I don't like the idea, and drive it several times per week.

Anonymous said...

WSDOT wrote: HOV change - the 3+ HOV requirement proposed by the Commission would only be in effect during peak, weekday commute hours.

The WSDOT website actually defines this "peak" period as weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.. That is 8 hours, or 1/3 of the day. So no, you cannot just dismiss this concern by saying "oh well you can still use the HOV lane for free with two people during non-peak hours" because that means going to work at 4 A.M. which is not really an option for most people.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous "all lanes should be tolled during peak use hours." The problem here is that WSDOT plans to toll at the peak rate no matter whether you're going in the peak direction or the off-peak direction! So long as the time for one direction is considered "peak," both directions get nailed with the higher costs.

@ Susan M. "The gas tax funds roads." This is only partially true. For transportation in general, which includes roads, 39% is funded by the gas tax, 11% from fees, 14% from bond sales, 12% from federal funds, 7% from ferry revenues, 3% from tolls and 3% from vehicle sales taxes. Gas taxes haven't changed in awhile, but inflation has. In addition, cars have gotten more fuel-efficient, electric cars have replaced some of the gasoline-powered cars, and vehicle miles have - at best - been flat. In short, gas tax revenues are not keeping up. As there's always a reluctance for politicians to raise the gas tax, they've opted to take the "user fee" route.

@Anonymous (multiple) Re: cheaters, and why isn't WSDOT answering this, they're introducing a "FlexPass" to go along with the "Good to Go" pass. One has to indicate that they're a carpool. Supposedly, the cops will be able to see which is which, stopping those who haven't paid. The tolls, as I understand it, can be as high as $10.00 - $12.00 without a Flexpass/Good to Go pass combination, but usually won't be that high (the extra $2 is where you don't have an account). The cost is to fluctuate based on demand, and whatever the rate is when you enter - and there are to be designated places where you enter/exit, else you could be ticketed for that - that's what you pay. I agree, some sort of fixed rail should be built along I-405. The Eastside has been short-changed by Sound Transit in their light rail plan. Rather than having even a portion of I-405 with light rail, such as the #1 in congestion Tukwila to Bellevue segment, or even the Bothell to Lynnwood segment, they've only got, beyond finishing the last bit of light rail to Redmond, bus rapid transit listed.

@Alex B I agree, I think it will backfire, just as this blog has, as WSDOT is quite slow in responding.

Recent studies, I believe it was on King's website, showed that 2+ performed slightly better than 3+, other than in revenue, where 3+ would be a boon for the state. Instead, the state should consider a compromise: 2+ for the lane closest to GP, 3+ for the inside lane (for the 2 HOT lane section). But, since the equipment's already ordered and mostly installed, like that's going to happen!!!

There is a ton of education involved with this, as there are substantial differences from what's in place for 167, 520, and the Narrows Bridge.

Anonymous said...

23 years later and no rail service and the most that's being done is adding lanes that will force 2 person carpools into the main lanes with no additional park and ride capacity - what a shame. this state has no foresight, insight, or hindsight - I can't believe that especially in the last 23 years, we have done little to build out a state-wide transportation infrastructure that supports our commerce, commuter, and travel needs - it's a shame - even Portland has a decent rail system, not to mention the east coast cities that figured this out years ago and have had well oiled commuter systems in place for years - are we too proud to learn from them or what?

WSDOT said...

WSDOT in collaboration with local and federal agencies, seven cities and two counties developed a multi-modal, balanced strategy for transportation solutions along the I-405 corridor. The I-405 Master Plan vision for the corridor, adopted in 2002, included Bus Rapid Transit as the transit component. So far, we’re more than halfway finished with planned transit center expansions, park and ride enhancements and BRT infrastructure, but we know there’s still a great deal more work to do, especially on transit service increases and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. In addition to adding express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood, WSDOT is adding two special use transit shoulders to give buses more efficient service on southbound I-405 during peak periods. We’re also building a braided ramp system at NE 160th and SR 522 to ease congestion around that interchange.

Neil K said...

I solved the problem by taking my company in Kirkland along with 19 of my 27 employees and moving to Hayden ID.
We no longer have commute problems, I was able to raise employee wages and increase profits from reduced business costs and all of us have more free time everyday from short commute times.
It has worked well for all of us who made the move.

Missy said...

Those who are saying $10 a day are incorrect. At peak times it would be $10 for ONE WAY. Consider that the driver still needs to drive home after work, another peak time, another $10. Potentially $5000/yr (with two weeks off for vacation time).

WSDOT is seeing stars in their eyes and hoping for a ton of new drivers. Further, they state a Florida study that doubled and tripled speeds with these lanes. How fast was/is the speed limit? Were all the cars driving at 20mph only? Let's see the link.

Anonymous said...

What's really frustrating is that this is a violation of a concept that started this country: double taxation.

Tax payers have already paid for this road (perhaps several times) through increased taxes over the years.

And now we have to pay to use the lanes we already paid for?

It's just offensive.

This shows that WSDOT is not held accountable for making proper financial and project decisions.. I think the organization should be audited (for this project and regularly).

And regarding 405 today - I think that there should possibly be a legal investigation for improper usage of funds, or sheer lack of responsibility in project execution.

WSDOT has betrayed its customers.

Cory H said...

This is the worst idea ever. Thanks for instituting a mandatory change that will take away current privileges of families who utilize the carpool lanes on an irregular (not once per week) basis. Ash Way Park & Ride is full by 6:45 in the fall season. There have been several times I was unable to find a parking space. Further, for me to commute from Lynnwood to Redmond takes longer by bus than it does for me to drive myself because of inconvenient bus routes/times. I have a feeling this idea is only going to make traffic worse.

Anonymous said...

Educate on merging. Be tough with strong worded signs. The traffic lights don't work. Every time I go anywhere in Europe people just drive thinking about what they need to do coming onto a freeway and with even heavy loads things flow. Here most people get to the end of the slip road going the wrong speed and not looking how they will slot into the traffic on the free way. then they brake the person on the freeway brake. alas the whole road comes to a stop. Please erect large flashing signs explaining to people the basics of driving.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late in the game here, but my main concern(pet peeve) is people who cheat in the carpool lane. There is no practical way to patrol the carpool lane with this process. If someone is riding single occupancy in the carpool lane and they have a flex pass, they could switch it to HOV (free) mode and no one would know? If they don't have this pass or they choose to be honest and switch it to toll mode, they will just pay a toll? State patrol cannot pull over every single occupancy car to see if they have a Flex pass and see if it is switched to the correct mode. Am I missing something here? I'm all for the honor system, but I doubt people will follow this when $10 each way is at stake.

WSDOT said...

Enforcement is important to WSDOT. Washington State Patrol (WSP) will provide express toll lane enforcement. If a driver uses the Flex Pass to declare carpool status, a beacon above the roadway will signal the driver’s HOV status to surrounding vehicles and law enforcement. WSP will use visual inspections to determine if drivers are meeting the carpool requirements.

Also, we estimate that the typical toll for the 17 miles corridor will be between $1 and $4. $10 is the maximum toll rate for the system, and we expect to only reach this number in extreme traffic.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it simple math? If HOV lanes are congested now and the way to make them less congested is to reduce the number of cars choosing/able to use the HOV lane, then where are those vehicles going? to the main lanes, making the main lanes more congested. If this is not the case, then it's because they added a lane to the HOV. So in reality the relieved congestion is ONLY a result of adding a lane, and the actual affect of that relief is reduced is minimal since the added lane is HOV.

Don't forget the fact that now 2-person carpools are discouraged from carpooling and now we'll have more cars on the freeway

Native said...

Another great idea by the Washington Transportation Comm. Use our tax dollars to build extra lanes, we suffer through the years of construction, then they toll the new lanes and 75% of that money goes to overhead. Nothing is returned to the road funds. It seems clear to me that these people that make these decisions do not drive 405. 3 person carpool? you must be joking. Wouldn't we all jump on the chance to carpool if we could do it? It's tough enough trying to get 2 that have the same destination and don't have errands to run or plans after work etc. Dump the carpool lanes, dump the toll lanes, give us back the roads WE paid for. Taxpayers need to be aware that our elected officials are not backing their constituents. Find out if your representatives voted for this or supported this thievery and vote them out.

Anonymous said...

did Washington state ask for permission to toll interstate 405

WSDOT said...

Federal law (MAP-21) authorizes States to create high occupancy toll (HOT) or express toll lanes, provided that those lanes meet performance and enforcement requirements. In April 2011, the Washington State Legislature authorized tolling on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood.

Anonymous said...

I think the most annoying part of this proposal is the constant use of the term "new" in describing these toll lanes. In reality we are converting existing lanes to create these "new" lanes. I am really struggling to understand how reducing the number of usable lanes for the non paying crowd is expected to improve traffic flow. Instead of converting the existing HOV lane we are also going to convert an existing general purpose lane.

It is going to make traffic worse and force drivers to pay up to be in the toll lanes to keep traffic moving.

Where do the proceeds go? To improve roads or transportation? Or more likely to the general fund. I call that taxation. I have seen zero details regarding where the $$ will be spent.

The Geezer said...

Anon: Just the gub'mint lying to you AGAIN. You are really surprised?

And a large part of the toll money goes to the tolling firm!, not even the general fund.

Geezer has spaketh.

WSDOT said...

I understand there is some confusion, and I want to clear up a few things in your comment. First, we are not taking away any general purposes lanes with the express toll lanes system, and the general purpose lanes will remain free to all drivers. The existing carpool lane between Bothell and Lynnwood will become a single express toll lane. For the two lane system between SR 522 and NE 6th Street in Bellevue, we are building a new lane adjacent to the carpool lane. You may see testing occurring over the current far left lane, however, the configuration will change after we restripe the project area in September. Second, all toll facilities have their own dedicated account. Revenue from tolling the Tacoma Narrows and SR 520 bridges goes into accounts that pay for the new bridges. All revenue generated from the I-405 express toll lanes will go into a dedicated account for future improvements along the I-405 corridor. We will add this information to our website.

I-405 express toll lanes are a tool to help reduce congestion on the highway. The tolls on I-405 express toll lanes will be based on the demand of traffic. Tolls will increase when demand is higher in the express toll lane and decrease when demand is lower to encourage more drivers to use the lane when space is available. Through this dynamic pricing, we can manage traffic in the lane to improve efficiency and provide drivers an option for a reliable trip.

Jeff Lykken said...

The Washington State Transportation Commission has lost touch with the people of this state. I have been to the Kirkland meeting and the last meeting in Renton and no one that I talked to want these lanes but they do not care. I can't believe that they are going to attempt to put this toll lane on I405 from Renton to Bellevue which only has 2 general purpose lanes in each direction - A JOKE! It is going to send hundreds and thousands of cars down lake Washington Blvd but they do not care! This will be bad for Renton which is in dire need of general purpose lanes as we have been promised the 2 general purpose lanes for years. Due to this stupid project, the Washington State Transportation commission needs to be disbanded. Also we are working on an initiative to do away with toll lanes on I405

PNW Investigative Agency said...

If there is an accident ahead, can I access the hov lane to get around without being charged or ticketed?

The Geezer said...

Yeah, like PNW above, I want to know, too. How you gonna do that?

Inquiring minds wanna know!

The Geezer (not a fan of this scheme, if you didn't know.

WSDOT said...

Jeff Lykken,

Thank you for your comment. Over 1 million people are moving to the Puget Sound region in the next 25 years – that’s almost the size of two cities of Portland. WSDOT recognized these challenges back in 1999 and worked with the public, employers, cities, counties, and regional planning agencies to develop the I-405 Master Plan, a multimodal transportation plan for I-405. $1.3 billion of that plan has been delivered on time and under budget, including widening of I-405 in Kirkland and Renton. But we know we cannot build our way out of congestion, that’s why WSDOT worked with I-405/SR 167 stakeholders to develop a vision for a 40-mile regional system of express toll lanes spanning Auburn to Lynnwood. The I-405 Bellevue to Lynnwood express toll lanes are a critical step to completing that work. The final piece of the system will be completed in 2023 when the I-405 Renton to Bellevue express toll lanes open to traffic.

Express toll lanes give drivers a choice to pay a toll for a reliable trip when they need it. They also give carpoolers and transit users greater speed and predictability toll-free. When express toll lanes were introduced in Miami, average speeds in the HOV lane more than tripled during peak afternoon periods. At the same time, average speeds in the general purpose lanes more than doubled. The result of the I-405 express toll lane system will be a corridor that moves more vehicles and people more efficiently.

Helena said...

This toll lane project is one of the dumbest projects in recent memory. DOT needs to get its facts straight. The original 2001 master plan had 2 general purpose lanes added in each direction. That was in the original Renton to Bellevue project that would have made a huge difference to congestion. Traffic from Bellevue to Renton is already terrible, and this toll lane is going to make it a traffic catastrophe. This project is going to send hundreds and thousands of cars into my neighborhood and on to Lake Washington Blvd and WADOT does not care and they are going to try and send this stupid project down our throats. Why should we pay for a lane that is 100% paid for by the gas tax and they are going to give 75% of the money to a Texas company??? Renton is in dire need of general purpose lanes and this is there solution? The new lane from Renton to Bellevue needs to be a general purpose lane, and the people can stop this madness. Having a Freeway with only 2 general purpose lanes in each direction is irresponsible and just plain stupid.

The Geezer said...

What evidence do you have that we are like Miami? Tripling the Hov speeds would cause massive speeding.

And doubling speed of zero in the GP lanes is still zero!

The Geezer.

WSDOT said...

Hello, PNW and Geezer.

If there is an accident in the I-405 regular lanes, Washington State Patrol will be responsible for directing traffic around the incident. If you are directed to use the I-405 express toll lanes by the state patrol to bypass the incident, then you will not be charged a toll. The state patrol and WSDOT traffic engineers will work together to ensure the signs above the express toll lanes let drivers know if the express toll lanes are in regular toll mode, if they are open to all drivers or in another status.

WSDOT said...

Hello, Geezer.

In Miami, the HOV lane was averaging 16 mph in the afternoon peak travel time. Now that the express toll lane has opened, speeds average 56 mph during that same afternoon peak travel time. The express toll lane in Miami now provides a reliable trip to drivers, one of the main goals of opening the I-405 express toll lanes here.

WSDOT said...

Hello, Helena.

Thank you for sharing your concerns about increased congestion between Bellevue and Renton on I-405.

Over 1 million people are moving to the Puget Sound Region in the next 25 years, that’s almost the size of two cities of Portland. Quick population growth is a great sign for our economy, but it creates some big challenges for infrastructure and transportation. WSDOT recognized these challenges early on. Between 1999 and 2002, we worked with the public, employers, cities, counties, and regional planning agencies to develop the I-405 Master Plan, a balanced, multimodal transportation plan for the Eastside. The plan was adopted by regional consensus in 2002.

You are correct that the Master Plan called for adding two lanes in each direction, however, the Master Plan also called for further study of managed lanes or express toll lanes. Between 2009 and 2013, the I-405 program reconvened the I-405/SR 167 Executive Advisory Group at the direction of the legislature to study express toll lanes. After careful analysis of the corridor’s projected growth and performance needs, the EAG endorsed a 40-mile, connected system of express toll lanes. Express toll lanes provide the backbone infrastructure for bus rapid transit by keeping busses moving at 45 miles an hour or faster. More reliable bus connections will make transit a more desirable option for other drivers, taking more cars off the road and further reducing congestion.

The legislature eventually funded a portion of the I-405 Master Plan through the Nickel and Transportation Partnership Program (TPA) funding in 2003 and 2005. These dollars paid for the addition of one lane in both directions between Bellevue and SR 522 as well as several interchange improvements. To date, those projects are on time and substantially under budget – almost 20%. The Connecting Washington transportation package, passed in July, completes this widening work with the addition of one lane in both directions between Renton and Bellevue.

In terms of the 75 percent of revenue, the percentage of operating costs will decrease each year as traffic and revenue increase in the I-405 express toll lanes. It has been reported that that money goes to a company in Texas; however, the people that work at the customer service centers in Seattle, Bellevue and Gig Harbor live and work here in Washington. That money also pays for the WSDOT engineers that designed the algorithm we use on SR 167 and will use on the I-405 express toll lanes. These engineers are nationally recognized for this achievement because we are the only system in the country that designed our algorithm in-house.

Express toll lanes give drivers a choice to pay a toll for a reliable trip when they need it. Express toll lanes will also bring back predictability for carpoolers and transit who use the lanes toll-free. When express toll lanes were introduced in Miami, average speeds in the HOV lane more than tripled during peak afternoon periods. At the same time, average speeds in the general purpose lanes more than doubled. The result of the I-405 express toll lane system will be a corridor that moves more vehicles and people more efficiently.

Helena said...

Once again, the needs of Renton to Bellevue on I405 are neglected. We had a great plan that would have made a huge difference in regards to helping with congestion with the Renton to Bellevue project. The facts from Wadot are off again as Nothing has been done from Renton to Bellevue as adding 2 general purpose lanes would have made a huge difference with congestion. This toll lane project is going to make traffic in the Renton area on of the worst stretches of freeway in the United States. Leaving I405 with only 2 lanes in each direction is one if the dumbest decisions in recent memory, and is irresponsible and just plain stupid.

jon weigel said...

There is no getting past this. They spent to much money on 520 and this is their cover. I'm hoping no one uses the lanes and it collapses. Tell you what DOT I'll help you take the cameras down for free!

Ye said...

Is there a official channel where people can vote against I-405 HOV lane system?

It seems that everyone is against this system except the gov't and if the gov't is for the people, they should listen to those who are actually using I-405 everyday.

Anonymous said...

You keep using Miami as your touchstone model. They are not even the same demographic as the NW, let alone the topography and sheer number of people in our workforce. Also, we already pay for a "reliable trip" with our taxes. The fact that the WA Gov misappropriates those funds for their partisan pet projects and leave nothing for road improvements just means that we get the shaft, yet again. 3+ carpool lanes are a joke. There is no credible study that sites 3+ works better than 2+. But is does create a bigger $ stream for the state, right? Why else would you make it 3+? All of those 2+ carpools that can't or refuse to pay the tolls will now be in the Gen Purpose lanes. I estimate that is about 75%-80% of the current carpoolers between Lynnwood and Bellevue (according to the observations I have made the last 15 years of driving from Bothell to Issaquah). The WADOT is solely responsible for letting things get as bad as they were to begin with by band-aiding problems with short term solutions instead of having the foresight and vision to put a real public transportation system in place like NY and Chicago have. Even SF has the BART that works real well. If you told people that the money from these carpool tolls is going to fund a light rail system that stretches from Lynnwood to Tukwilia I bet people would be a lot ore accepting. But instead we get to pay again for roads that our taxes should be paying for in the first place. How do you guys sleep at night? Oh yeah, on a pile of ill gotten dollars.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to this policy, my 405 commute now takes 30% longer - WITH PAYING THE EXTRA EXPRESS LANE TAX.
Part of the reason is that metered onramps are now so backed up because of the reduction in regular lanes that the backups reach deep into contributory roads. As are result getting onto 405 in the morning now takes 15-20 minutes longer, so any potential gain from the express lanes has already been consumed.
I have no problem with having paid express lanes, but by reducing the number of regular lanes to add two express lanes, WSDOT has artificially created more congestion.

WSDOT said...

Thank you for your comment. I-405 is the most congested corridor in the state, experiencing up to 8 hours of congestion each day. The HOV lanes on I-405 have been a great success, in some ways too successful. So many 2+ drivers were using the HOV lanes that they failed over 200 days a year, meaning speeds slowed down below 45 miles an hour almost two-thirds of the calendar year.

Over 1 million people are moving to the Puget Sound region in the next 25 years – that’s almost the size of two cities of Portland. This explosion in population growth will bring with it new challenges. WSDOT recognized these challenges back in 1999 and worked with the public, employers, cities, counties, and regional planning agencies to develop the I-405 Master Plan, a multimodal transportation plan for the Eastside. A key part of the I-405 Master Plan was finding a multi-modal solution for the corridor. The executive committee, citizens committee, and technical advisory committee worked together with the public to explore a range of transit solutions for I-405. Bus rapid transit was identified as the preferred mode. WSDOT is working closely with Sound Transit to implement BRT on I-405 as part of the upcoming Sound Transit 3 package (project E-02).

$1.3 billion of the I-405 Master Plan has been delivered on time and under budget. But we know we cannot build our way out of congestion, that is why WSDOT worked with I-405/SR 167 stakeholders to develop a vision for a 40-mile regional system of express toll lanes spanning from Auburn to Lynnwood. The I-405 Bellevue to Lynnwood express toll lanes are a critical step to completing that work. The final piece of the system will be completed in 2023 when the I-405 Renton to Bellevue express toll lanes open to traffic.

Express toll lanes have been implemented on 32 urban highway corridors around the country with great success for all drivers. The result of the I-405 express toll lane system will be a corridor that moves more vehicles and people more efficiently.

Maureen Nash said...

Not only did the WSDOT create 2 [frequently empty] toll lanes, used only by those with enough disposable income to be able to pay the price to not have to sit in traffic, but they built those 2 new lanes at the expense of 1 of the regular lanes. This causes unreasonable hardship for people making minimum or average wage, while creating privileged, elitist lanes for the wealthy. Congestion has not improved, it has in fact gotten worse.

In addition, thinking that increasing the carpool occupancy limit to 3 instead of 2 people will encourage carpooling is insane. It's difficult enough for 2 people to coordinate their morning and evening commute to a close enough location to make a carpool work. The buses are a nice idea, except there aren't enough route options that are time efficient enough to compensate for not being able to just drive, especially for a long commute between cities that are not Seattle and Bellevue.

Everybody pays taxes for the roads. Everybody should have equal access to those roads, regardless of income.

WSDOT said...

Hello Maureen Nash:
Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. As with any big changes to the roadway, it will take time for drivers to get used to the new express toll lanes system. This is a big change for drivers, and we expect that the first several commutes will be slower than usual. Over time, drivers will get comfortable with this system, and the highway will begin to operate more efficiently in both the express toll lanes and the regular lanes.

Prior to the express toll lanes, no one had a reliable trip on I-405 no matter which lane they choose. A three-passenger carpool requirement will provide a faster and more reliable trip for drivers opting to use express toll lanes during peak hours, moving at 45 mph 90 percent of the time. As traffic moves more quickly in the express toll lanes, the regular lanes will experience less congestion.

Maureen Nash said...

Thank you for responding to my comment, WSDOT. However, your response doesn't actually address any of my "concerns" as you put it, nor do I believe your claims are accurate. The only people moving at 45 mph 90% of the time is the 2% of the population wealthy enough to afford it on a twice daily basis. Everyone else sits in worse traffic caused by the reduction of one of the regular lanes so the rich can get to work faster.

WSDOT's mission statement is "to provide and support safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation options to improve livable communities and economic vitality for people and businesses." WSDOT has not accomplished this mission.

a11an phi11ips said...

It just might be easier for hitch-hikers to catch a ride at free-way entrances. Of coarse picking up hitch-hikers will soon be outlawed; Unless it's already illegal, then expect stepped up enforcement.

Unknown said...

Are you still letting large trucks use the 405 toll lanes

WSDOT Toll Division said...

Hi Unknown - Trucks over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight are not allowed into the express toll lanes. This is consistent with HOV lane restrictions throughout Washington. We are monitoring traffic patterns in the express toll lanes and may consider adjusting the rules for some trucks in the future.