Friday, October 2, 2015

How to navigate collisions blocking the I-405 express toll lanes

 by Harmony Weinberg

This morning the price to drive in the I-405 express toll lanes jumped to $5.25, the highest toll rate yet. Below is useful information to help drivers better understand how the lanes reached that price and how to navigate the lanes when there is a collision on I-405.

What happened?
Around 6:30 a.m. there was a collision on southbound I-405 near SR 527 in Bothell that blocked the two left lanes of the highway, including the express toll lane.

What did that mean for drivers?
Well, for drivers who wanted to enter the lanes on southbound I-405 in Lynnwood they saw a sign that read HOV ONLY. That meant only drivers with a flex pass switched to HOV mode and three or more people in the vehicle could enter the express toll lane.

Why couldn’t non-HOV drivers pay to use the lanes? We can’t sell you a faster trip in the express toll lanes when they are blocked. To manage traffic, we needed to lessen the load in the lane by only allowing HOV drivers in. Those HOV drivers stayed in the toll lane up until the point of the blockage where emergency officials directed them to merge back into the regular lanes to get around the collision. Once around the collision, those vehicles could get back into the toll lanes. For drivers south of the collision, the express toll lanes operated as normal.

Why the high price?
When the collision cleared around 7:10 a.m. and the express toll lane reopened to traffic, we saw an increase of drivers who chose to take that lane to avoid the three mile backup caused by the crash. Carpools with a flex pass hopped into the express toll lane for free. Non-carpoolers had the option to pay $5.25 to get around the backup. While the express toll lane had significantly less traffic than the regular lanes at this point in time, it was still more congested than usual. Tolls adjust automatically based on traffic speeds and the number of vehicles in the express toll lane in order to manage traffic.

HOV Only:


Today’s collision caused express toll lane rate signs to read HOV ONLY. This helps to manage traffic by limiting the number of vehicles entering the blocked lanes.

Express toll lanes open to all (no toll):



Sometimes there could be a collision or roadwork that may block all lanes except the express toll lanes. In that case, we would stop collecting tolls and allow all vehicles (with or without a Good to Go! Pass) to use the lanes.

The purpose of express toll lanes is to help us manage traffic better and keep traffic moving so that drivers have a more reliable option when they need it. The goal is to keep traffic moving at 45 miles per hour 90 percent of the time, but that is not always possible when collisions block the lanes. During traffic incidents, we use rate signs as a traffic management tool to reduce backups and do the best we can to get traffic moving again as fast as possible. 

30 comments:

Aaron M. said...

So you're telling me that because of a blocking in the express toll lanes, traffic in the non-toll lanes was affected and once that blockage was cleared, you charged drivers a huge premium to go around the backup from the problem that originated in the toll lanes to begin with?

Sure, it's a great business model, but it's incredibly evil. I understand the requirement to keep traffic in the express toll lanes moving at >= 45mph >= 90% of the time to continue receiving federal funding, but this seems heavy-handed and incredibly tasteless. The goal should be to keep ALL traffic flowing in these kinds of situations over meeting some poorly thought-out federal requirement.

Lee said...

Are there exceptions allowing crossing the double white lines in the event of accidents, either into our out of the toll lanes? If so, is it limited to near the site of the incident?

noto405tolls said...

You guys suck so bad at managing this! I haven't met one person who wants or enjoys these tolls! The public is outraged by you!

noto405tolls said...

NO.

We the people said NO to these tolls 9 months ago and you STILL put them in place! And now we are outraged! We will demonstrate our strength at the polls!

Mike Sandberg said...

get rid of the tolling on 405. the road is already paid for. no one wants this so get rid of it.

Mike Sandberg said...

the new ETL sucks!

bubba 1 said...

I drive 405 and refuse to sign up for a good to go pass. I have 4-5 people in the car and do not feel that I need to purchase any thing to ride on the freeways. That I paid for with all the taxes this state employs. We now pay more in taxes than other states and you can not live with the money you get. What do you do but put a tax on the new roads you spent with our money. If I had my way you would all be fired and then you would be like us trying to figure out how you would get around with high paying taxes.

MukkeDK said...

Bubba, on behalf of all ETL users, I just want to extend a big thank you.

Without people like you, the ETLs would be much more crowded. Instead, the lanes are moving fast, the price is low, and I can get where I need to be without being stuck in traffic for hours.

Again, thank you sir!

WSDOT said...

Hello Lee-
If the Washington State Patrol directs you to cross the double white lines, then you are allowed to do so. Otherwise, it is illegal to cross double white lines. Thanks for your question!

ARMF said...

I was on the I405-S-ETL this Saturday afternoon (1pm-2pm) and Sunday afternoon (3pm-4pm). There was a number of people weaving in and out of the general lanes into and out of the ETL across the double white lines. IT IS DANGEROUS due to the differential in speeds and you don't know when frustrated drivers will cross into the ETL lanes. Weekend traffic on I405 was never a problem before - Why not turn off the toll requirements on the
weekends? My out-of-town guests and families are avoiding I405 or comimg to the area due to carpool pass requirements toll or not. The pass/toll requirement even for weekend visitors is unjustified.

I405-N Begining of ETL is too far south - it is causing a backup and accidents because prople are already weaving through traffic to get to SR520 and now are trying to avoid the double white lines as well. The ETL entry point should be north of SR520 where there is significantly less traffic. Wasn't that I450-SR520 interchanged changed recently to avoid slow down that is recurring?

I405-S End of ETL (end of the double white lines) is too far South. People from 520 cannot enter/exit the ETL to carpool line until a half mile after SR520. Carpool users cannot enter carpool lane even when safe to do so. Currently at the entry of carpool lane there are there are three lines of traffic trying to use or enter the carpool lane when it ends at NE 6th at the same time: (1) Existing I405-S ETL users (2) Carpool entry users at
NE6th from Bellevue (3) I405-S carpoolers trying to enter carpool (people trying to avoid crossing the white lines). The ETL should end just after the SR520 exit ramps where traffic is/was less.

Matt said...

Could you please make it a top priority to extend ETL south through Bellevue, onwards to downtown Renton and finally up to I-5? I'll gladly pay the small amount (I paid $.75 cents the first time I used it to bypass the gridlock)

MrSpinshot said...

I disagree with part of what "ARMF" said.

The I405-N beginning of ETL is not too far south. If you're on I405 N and want to exit for SR520, you should already be on the right side of the road before the current start of the ETL. The ETL should not be causing more backups and accidents due to people "weaving through traffic to get to SR520 and now are trying to avoid the double white lines."

I405-S end of ETL is also not too far south. People coming from 520 shouldn't be trying to enter the HOV lane until a half mile after SR520 anyway! It should take time to carefully make the three lane changes you need to go from the 520 on ramp to 405 S and the HOV lane! It takes 30 seconds to go a half mile at 60 mph.

I think the start/end of ETLs at NE 6th street are where they should be. Why should I pay to go faster and get slowed down right before I get to Bellevue (SB) or have to go through a backup to get into the ETL (NB)?

WSDOT said...

Hello Matt-
Great news! Funding has been allocated to extend the express toll lanes south on I-405 to Renton in the near future. Thanks for your comment and glad you are enjoying the new express toll lanes!

Patriot Housewife said...

This is more mismanagement by WSDOT and a liberal Legislature and their never ending quest for more or YOUR MONEY. People, quit electing these commies who are just out to steal from you!!!

BlackMoon said...

I save 20 minutes every morning and evening thanks to those lanes. I love it! Great job WSDOT! I'm happy to pay for such an efficient service. Please extend ASAP down south to I5.

Tom said...

Just cut my property taxes to 1% to pay for schools and toll all roads and all lanes. Invest the money in better roads. I don't mind paying for what I use. ETL just add complexity and open up the system to mismanagement.

WSDOT said...

Hello BlackMoon:
So glad to hear you are enjoying the I-405 express toll lanes! There is now funding to extend the lanes south to Renton, so stay tuned!

Buttercup said...

Who do we need to vote out of office to get rid of this? Its too bad I can't just fire WSDOT and start over.

Jeff Gray said...

So glad to hear that this is being extended to Renton! Why should us folks on the north end be the only ones to enjoy this steaming pile of misery? I guess the upside is that the number of folks completely enraged by the Extortion Toll Lanes will grow that much more, ensuring we can get this travesty overturned. So stay tuned, WSDOT!

Sean said...

Don't listen to Matt. We do not want this boondoggle extended south of I-90. BTW, I like the way WSDOT only responds to the positive comments. There are some serious concerns that are being ignored.

Sean said...

Please use this "funding" for something other than extending this boondoggle south of I-90. There are many 2 person carpools that would rather just keep on carpooling.

WSDOT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WSDOT said...

Per the Revised Code of Washington, the toll revenue from I-405 express toll lanes must only be used for specific items, including the expansion of the express toll lanes on I-405.

Helena said...

Extending the toll lane south on I405 from Renton to Bellevue before they add the much needed general purpose lanes will be one of the worst transportation decisions in the history of this state. Renton to Bellevue already has some of the worst traffic in the United States and we are in dire need of general purpose lanes. Traffic is already so bad that hundreds of cars cut through my neighborhood on lake Wadhington Blvd. Adding a toll lane on this stretch of freeway before adding general purpose lanes first will cause a traffic catastrophe and will send thousands or more cars through our neighborhoods. Glad the WSDOT did there research and this proves they want to create congestion. We will fight this before it can be implemented.

Helena said...

We were promised 2 general purpose lanes on I405 from Renton to Bellevue which is one of the worst stretches of freeway in the nation. Renton to Bellevue is in dire need of general purpose lanes, and adding a toll lane on this stretch of freeway will make it a traffic catastrophe sending hundreds and thousands of cars down lake Wadhington Blvd. we will fight this stupid project which creates congestion. Putting a toll lane on this stretch will be one of the dumbest decisions in Washington state history. Will will fight this until the end! Real Lanes For Real People!!

Dave said...

WSDOT, while you talk of how great the ETL are, you are overlooking the fact that these lanes would serve traffic flow far better and cost far less to manage, not to mention how they would be more user-friendly and have greater acceptance, if they were simply 2 carpool lanes like the original format that was so successful and popular. You have created a Rube Goldberg solution to a simple problem. The fact you expect it to take 6 months to a year for drivers to adapt is proof this system is a failed design. Clearly not the best you could do. The previous solution has proven itself extremely successful for years. Let's be honest. ETL is not about improving traffic flow. If it were, you would have just added another carpool lane. This is about creating a new source of revenue.

WSDOT said...

Hello Dave:
Before the I-405 Express Toll Lanes launched, the 2+ HOV lanes were failing to provide a reliable trip 200 days out of the year. The goal of the new express toll lanes is to keep traffic flowing at a speed of at least 45 miles per hour, giving drivers an option for a reliable trip if they need it. Dynamic pricing allows us to better manage traffic and provide a reliable trip for transit, vanpools, and carpools. After operations and maintenance costs, toll revenue will be reinvested in the corridor for future improvements.

Helena said...

The WSDOT does not care about the 99% of us commuters in the general purpose lanes. Everyone needs to boycott the lanes they can be removed in 2 years. This gives us time to block the toll lane on the Renton to Bellevue portion which only has 2 general purpose lanes in each direction. A joke. If WSDOT did care we would be getting the general purpose lanes we were promised in the original 2001 master plan and the Renton to Bellevue project. Thanks for nothing.

WSDOT said...

Helena – Over the last decade, we’ve explored a range of solutions to congestion on I-405 including adding more regular lanes, improvements to local roads, increasing transit service, adding Park & Ride spaces and vanpools. We know from experience here and across the nation that we cannot build our way out of congestion. Express toll lanes, with updated carpool requirements, are a solution to help reduce congestion on I-405 and improve reliability for all. It is a big change for drivers, but it will provide the choice for a predictable trip when you really need it most.

WSDOT said...

Hi Helena -

Here's a little more about the Renton to Bellevue project. WSDOT agrees with you that I-405 has the worst congestion in the state with drivers experiencing up to eight hours of congestion a day. Not only that, but over one million people are moving to the Puget Sound region in the next 25 years – that’s almost the size of two cities of Portland. We have to create a solution that will accommodate current highway capacity and future Puget Sound region populations.

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. This vision is a part of the master plan for I-405 improvements focused on groups of projects that directly address the worst congestion chokepoints first, coordinating all transportation modes into a working system. One of those areas in need of our attention is the stretch of I-405 between Renton and Bellevue, as you point out. The I-405 Master Plan envisions adding two new lanes to I-405 between Bellevue and Renton. The I-405 Renton to Bellevue Express Toll Lanes project will create a dual-lane express toll lane system and add new capacity between NE 6th Street in Bellevue and SR 167 in Renton. This project will connect a 40-mile system of express toll lanes from Lynnwood to Auburn, improving travel times and trip reliability for all drivers, regardless of whether they choose to pay a toll.

Express toll lanes give drivers a choice to pay a toll for a reliable trip when they need it. They also bring back predictability and speed for carpoolers and transit users, who use the lanes toll-free, by keeping traffic moving at 45 miles an hour or faster. 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.

The Renton to Bellevue express toll lanes project was recently funded by the Washington State Legislature in mid-July by the $16 billion transportation package. The project funded by the legislature will build one lane in both directions between Bellevue and Renton. This means that the second lane is still a part of the overall I-405 Master Plan’s vision and it will be added at a later date when project funding is available.

That said, I would like to assure you that I-405 between Bellevue and Renton will keep the same number of general purpose lanes. The new lane will add capacity and help create a dual express toll lane system that will work similarly to the express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood that are already saving drivers 15-25 minutes on their commutes. Express toll lanes have been implemented on 32 highway corridors around the country with great success for all drivers. We are looking forward to improving the I-405 corridor and seeing the return of a reliable commute.

WSDOT comment policy

Post a Comment