Since the express toll lanes opened, we’ve heard a lot of feedback from drivers about access and entrances, and we want you to know we’re listening and taking your feedback seriously. While certain changes can happen relatively quickly, others may take longer.
The first week of express toll lanes, we made changes to striping at the southbound access at NE 160th Street to give drivers more space to merge. We also noticed traffic was backing up on the direct access ramps to NE 128th Street from the express toll lane so we worked with our signals crew to change the signal timing.
Here are some other changes we’re looking at to help make your driving experience better.
Addressing demand in the southbound I-405 express toll lane in the AM
Drivers are telling us that a faster, more reliable trip is important to them and since opening we’ve seen more drivers using the express toll lanes. In some cases, there is greater demand than there is capacity in the lane.
This is true in the single express toll lane on southbound I-405 between SR 527 and NE 195th Street where we’ve seen speeds decrease in the last two weeks as more drivers are using the express toll lane. We’ve heard frustrations from drivers and after closely monitoring the situation, this week we started making changes to the toll rate algorithm to help manage traffic better.
Our engineers found the toll rate algorithm wasn’t responding quickly enough as traffic volumes increased in the morning commute. So this week, traffic engineers made some changes that caused the toll rates to increase a bit earlier in the morning. This showed some positive results. Traffic in the express toll lane moved faster and the maximum toll rates were the same or lower than before the change.
It’s still early and we are continuing to make additional adjustments to improve performance in this part of the system. When we launched SR 167 HOT lanes in 2008, we made several adjustments to the toll rate algorithm in the first few months of operation. Last year, we made additional adjustments to bring the toll rate down quicker to be more responsive to traffic after peak periods. Ultimately, our goal is the same with any changes we make which is to get people to their destination as quickly and safely as possible.
It’s important to remember, our goal is keep traffic moving at 45 mph at least 90 percent of the time during peak periods. There will be times when speeds drop below 45 mph due to heavy demand or other reasons that we can’t control (collisions, heavy rain or inclement weather or even perhaps deer running down the lane).
Adjustments in striping
We also will be making some changes to express toll lane striping at the following locations to assist in improved access and reduce driver confusion. This work is weather dependent and we will work with our contractor to complete the work over the next few months.
- Entrance of express toll lanes northbound I-405 at NE 6th Street in Bellevue:
- Even with signage in the corridor, we’re hearing some drivers still aren’t realizing they’re entering an express toll lane, so we’re going to add additional Express Toll Lane stenciling to the pavement before and at the beginning of the lane.
- We’ll also extend the access point at that location to allow folks more time to decide if they want to be in the express toll lane or not.
- End of express toll lanes northbound I-405 approaching I-5 in Lynnwood:
- Drivers need more room to merge to I-5 from the express toll lanes, so we’re going to pull back the double white striping about 400 feet to give them some space.
- End of express toll lanes southbound I-405 at NE 6th Street in Bellevue:
- If you’re in the left-hand express toll lane traveling southbound I-405 approaching NE 6th Street, you need to merge to the right lane to continue south on I-405. We’re going to add an Exit Only pavement marking to help alert drivers.
Continuing to monitor other access points
We’ll continue to monitor access points to identify challenging areas. For example, we are keeping a close eye on northbound near SR 520 and NE 195th Street and southbound near SR 527 and south of NE 195th Street up to NE 160th Street. We’ve received a lot of comments on these blogs and social media and we’re using them as we look at adjustments.
Why are we waiting before making additional access point changes? We considered many factors when locating and designing the access points, including making sure there is adequate room to safely weave between the access point and interchange ramps and that the access point is long enough for safe movement in and out of the express toll lanes. We need to make changes incrementally to ensure we understand the effect of individual changes. If we make too many changes at once and one change didn’t work, it would be hard to determine which change created the challenge and therefore how to fix it.
We need to keep these factors in mind when we consider what adjustments we can make to the access points. In the meantime, we’re taking all of the feedback we hear into consideration and continuing to look for potential solutions.