Friday, January 16, 2015

Flashing lights signal I-405 express toll lane equipment install

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.
By Emily Pace Glad

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.

Throughout 2014, crews were 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.

Based on feedback we heard from drivers, we made adjustments to the camera flashes up north, decreasing the intensity and changing the angle. We'll use the same settings on the newly installed cameras. This, along with more ambient lighting in the south, should make the flashes less noticeable.

Crews wrapped up installing toll equipment north of SR 522 last year. Now 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.

Scheduled lane closures the week of Jan. 19 include:
  • On Tuesday, Jan. 20, and Thursday, Jan. 22: Up to three lanes of southbound I-405 will close between Northeast 160th Street and Northeast 124th Street from 7 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.
  • On Wednesday, Jan. 21: Up to two lanes of southbound I-405 will close between Northeast 160th Street and Northeast 124th Street from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.
These closures are subject to change, so for the latest information, make sure you check our I-405 construction updates page.

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 full during peak periods. One of the primary objectives of the express toll lanes is to improve traffic performance.

The new express toll lane between Northeast 6th Street in Bellevue and SR 522 in Bothell will be paired with the existing HOV lane, to create two express toll lanes in each direction. This additional lane capacity, combined with dynamic toll rates that adjust based on traffic conditions, will allow us to manage traffic flow better and move more vehicles faster than we do in today's carpool lanes.

In 2013, the I-405/SR 167 Executive Advisory Group composed of local elected officials and transportation agencies recommended a carpool policy where 3+ carpools ride free during peak times and 2+ carpools ride free at off-peak times. It will be up to the Washington State Transportation Commission to finalize this policy through a public process in the next few months.

Our traffic models predict that keeping a two-person carpool requirement will not allow us to meet our state and federal mandate of 45 miles per hour, 90 percent of the time during peak periods. Still, if we simply changed the carpool definition to 3+ without express toll lanes, the lanes would be underutilized. By building express toll lanes, we can fill those lanes back in by giving drivers the choice to use them.

As more drivers use the express toll lanes, traffic moves faster in the regular lanes, which will remain toll-free.

Still have questions about how the lanes will work? Check out our FAQs.


The Geezer said...

Take the most underused HOV lanes, make more, and toll them.

Makes perfect sense if you are a bureaucrat!

What bunkum!

Anonymous said...

This is a waste of money. The tolls will never even pay for the equipment. The carpool lanes will now be a clogged as the regular lanes, which are already faster in some places than the carpool lanes.

Anonymous said...

Will 2+ occupancy still be able to use this free of charge? I ask because I am a mom, who takes her 1 year old to a childcare near her work (leaves Renton and drives to Bothell). Mom's (or Dad's) with children, who must work, rely on those HOV lanes.

WSDOT said...

If the Transportation Commission finalizes the recommended policy, 2-person carpools will be able to use the express toll lanes for free during off-peak hours (which are to be determined). If a 2-person carpool wants to use the express toll lanes during peak hours, they will have to pay the toll. You’ll have the chance to provide input to the Transportation Commission through their public process in the next few months.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I won't be able to make that meeting because I am a mom (of a 1 year old..who goes to bed fairly early) and I work full time. Hopefully, this post may shine a valued light on parents who need that service during peek times (7am and 5pm...for me and likely many others). Hopefully, children and their quality of life is taken into consideration when new transportation issues are taken into consideration. Perhaps, parents with children (...especially under 5 years) should be able to fill out paperwork to ride HOV free of charge. Thanks again for speedy response.

GD Felt said...

So the Politicians are rewarding the wealthy with being able to pay to use a lane where the middle class is reduced more by taking away what we paid for.
Toll Lanes are a failure not progress. So now when one of my senior parents needs to go to an appointment, in the future, unless I have a 3rd person, I will have to spend MORE TIME in the regular lanes to get to the appointment.

If you want to move people better then use the HOV for what the Feds had thought they eventually would be used for. Turn them into LITE RAIL. Have the station over the freeways so people walk out and get on a LITE RAIL.
DO NOT do the STUPID LITE RAIL of I5 north with a slow zig zag pattern over I5 that will truly reduce transit speeds of the train and cost more due to buying up homes and business space.

If you DO NOT want to LOOSE HOV, then build LITE RAIL as an Elevated Rail over the HOV Lanes. Offers protection to the cars and buses and builds fast rail into and out of the city.

Anonymous said...

The only time I use the HOV lanes is to drive my medically fragile child to Children's hospital in Bellevue for her MANY regular appointments. Now, even that will cost me extra.

All you're doing is adding another cost to those of us who don't have money to burn to pay to drive in the carpool lane.

Way to go DOT, just another way to separate the haves for the have-nots.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the HOV lanes and let drivers use any lane they want anytime they want.

It's not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

My car has only two seats. If both seats are occupied, will I be charged a toll?

WSDOT said...

If the commission’s proposal for carpool occupancy requirements is adopted, you will be charged a toll during peak hours (weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.). During off-peak hours vehicles with two or more occupants will be able to use the express toll lanes free with a Good To Go! Flex Pass. The requirement is based on the number of people in the vehicle, not the vehicle capacity. You can learn more about the Commission’s proposal, and give them your feedback online.

Anonymous said...

Can the 'Flex pass' be used on the 520 in HOV mode (3+ carpool)? or do I have to switch mid-drive to toll mode?

Anonymous said...

The bright blue flash that lights up the inside of my car is incredibly distracting and annoying. I get flashed even if I'm not in the privileged lane. I hope the rich guy crashes his Mercedes because of it and sues.

Anonymous said...

Lol, you use the term adding two new toll lanes ! Putting up cameras over existing lanes does not make them new ! Adding new lanes requires asphalt , dirt and bridges ECT. not cameras!!!

Anonymous said...

We all paid taxes for these roads. Now, wealthy people will have nearly exclusinve use of 40% of 405's lanes, and the middle and poorer classes will...sit and watch them.

Ask yourself, Why did the 520 tolls create a "30-40% diversion
" scenario-that WSDOT predicted and approved? Or, better yet, read the Seattle Times' answer.
It's because so many who can't afford to pay the tolls drive other routes--they think $4 to drive across the bridge is just too much.

The people who think this isn't true must be making a lot more money, for example, writing traffic studies. WSDOT's 2009 study giving the nod to the tolls was an Orwellian mishmash, claiming that tolls were OK just because the poor don't own as many cars as middle and upper income workers. Ask anyone making $11 an hour the last time paying $8 of tolls a day was less important than waiting, and you will see the truth.

Tired of all the whining about poor people and tolls? What if the tolls made it so you had to ride the bus from South Park to Bellevue to get to work? What if you don't have a credit card tio get a Pass? What if you have to borrow a car to get to a doctor on the Eastside? And then what happens when the car you leant gets hit with a $40 fine for nonpayment? A good friend of mine moved from one apartment to the another last year, and two unpaid tickets that didn't get forwarded to his new place became $800 in less than a year.

Those kind of things don't happen to the fat Eastside wealthy, who don't have to change apartments quickly, and don't have to carry consumer debt, and to who $8 a day is nothing. But it might happen to any one of the rest of us.

WSDOT is promoting policies that specifically benefit the growing wealthy classes in the region, and use these policies for some fat revenue enhancement. They have sold out to private companies to manage the toll system, who have no interest in the public good whatsoever.
They themselves apparently do not exist to serve the greater good, but the private companies they outsource work to, and the fine citizens of Washington lucky enough to have a Lexus for the Lexus lanes. Everyone else, it seems, gets the shaft, and will have hours in the "free lanes..." to think about that.

Remove the Lexus lanes, remove the bridge tolls, and create a real progressive income tax system in our state. The tolls create a disproportionate burden on middle and low income people, who already paid a higher proportion of their incomes to build the damn roads in the first place. Period.

Anonymous said...

Will the 405 Flex Pass work on SR167 for both toll and carpool use?

Anonymous said...

Incremental slavery.

1) First install tracking mechanisms (the cameras)
2) Introduce tolls
3) Introduce automatic speeding tickets
4) Introduce per-mile taxes
5) Make fees so high normal people can no longer drive

Why are we putting up with allowing the DOT to install the tools of slavery?

Anonymous said...

Cool, because I have more wealth than you, I can buy my way into the lanes that you all paid for. Look for my white Cadillac Escalade as I drive past you

Anonymous said...

People need to quit taking this. Tolls have not solved traffic problems anywhere in this country, only provided revenue.

WSDOT said...

Express toll lanes are designed to move traffic more efficiently in the corridor, not to generate revenue. More than 30 express toll lane systems have been successfully implemented in places around the United States, including our very own SR 167 HOT Lanes which have consistently saved drivers about 8 minutes on morning commutes since opening. For example, after express toll lanes opened on I-95 in Miami, HOV lane speeds tripled and general purpose lane speeds doubled.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious that there is a post claiming that "poor" people pay a higher proportion of their income to pay for these toll lanes. The irony is that their taxes aren't paying for these lanes to begin with and with the current tax laws the higher income individuals pay a higher proportion of their income which is already comparatively higher.

LOL at unintelligent people

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