Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I-405 travel times show first commutes in regular lanes are close to normal

By Kris Olsen

After several days of operation, the new Interstate 405 express toll lanes are working well. They began providing a fast and reliable trip immediately to drivers and transit users. Our traffic engineers are also keeping a close eye on I-405’s regular lanes to see how traffic is moving.

We’ve closely watched travel times during the morning and evening commutes the past few days and compared them to travel times from October 2014.  We’ve taken their information and plotted them on the charts below. So far, the results are encouraging.

The morning commutes

First, let’s explain what’s on the graph.
  • The solid black line shows the average weekday morning commute time in the regular lanes for October 2014. That’s our “baseline,” if you will. 
  • The black dashed line shows a very heavy commute drivers experienced once out of every 20 days in October 2014.
  • The blue line shows the southbound commute for Monday, Sept. 28. 
  • The purple line shows Tuesday morning’s commute.
  • The yellow line shows Wednesday morning’s commute.
On average in October 2014, the morning commute in the regular lanes generally peaks just after 7 a.m. with a trip between Lynnwood and Bellevue taking about an hour.

Now, compare that to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • On Monday, the blue line, the average commute time in the regular lanes peaked at 65 minutes right around the 7 a.m. hour. 
  • On Tuesday, the purple line, the southbound commute in the regular lanes was slower compared to October 2014. It peaked just below 75 minutes at 7:30 a.m. But, that also coincides with a collision that occurred at Northeast 70th Street. About 90 minutes later a second collision occurred near Northeast 108th. 
  • The commute on Wednesday morning showed travel times in the regular lanes were much lower than average. 
And take a look at the black dashed line. That shows a commute in October 2014 that we experienced once every 20 days. Our average morning commute times this week were lower than the longest ones last year.

The evening commutes

For the evening commute graph:

  • The solid black line is our average weekday evening commute in the regular lanes in October 2014. 
  • The black dashed line represents the type of commute we experienced once out of every 20 days in October 2014. 
  • The green line and orange lines are Monday and Tuesday evenings commutes in the regular lanes, respectively.

The travel time of approximately 41 minutes each evening is right in line with our average commute times in the regular lanes last year. They are well below the high commutes we experienced one in every 20 days.

The I-5 diversion myth

We’ve heard a few things about the express toll lane system and how it’s affecting traffic on I-5. One persistent claim is that more drivers have diverted to I-5 in order to avoid the tolls and perceived congestion. The numbers show us that’s not the case. The traffic volumes have remained fairly steady on I-5 since tolling began.

Know before you go: familiarize yourself with the lanes

We know that change can be uncomfortable at times. Drivers can familiarize themselves with the express toll lanes beforehand by checking the top ten things you need to know about them.

There’s also this really helpful interactive map to help drivers figure out where they should enter and exit the toll lanes.

Early days

We’re still at the beginning of a learning curve. Everyday we’ve noticed that more drivers are using the express toll lanes. Other states that have instituted express toll lanes advise it takes six months to a year before traffic stabilizes into a new normal.

We’ll keep watching traffic closely, monitoring travel times and making adjustments as needed in order ensure we provide drivers with the choice of a reliable and predictable trip on I-405.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You spoke, we listened! You can now officially sync your calendar with ours

October brings a lot of things: football, pumpkin spice lattes, cooler weather, the return of directional closures on I-90, a weekend-long viaduct inspection and a new look for our popular WSDOT statewide traffic impacts calendar. You can now download the calendar directly from our website to help keep you informed. Subscribing to the WSDOT event calendar can be done via iCal and XML. Up-to-date month, week and agenda views are also available on the event calendar page.

REMEMBER: Construction and special events change often, so be sure to update and check the calendar often for the latest details.

Now, let’s get back to the I-90 directional closures starting back up. I-90 will be down to one lane and detoured to the express lanes for one or two weekends each month starting the weekend of October 9th through May of next year.  These weekend-long closures give contractor crews working for WSDOT and Sound Transit space to upgrade the operations and safety systems inside the Mount Baker and Mercer Island tunnels. The tunnel work must be completed before Sound Transit can begin work in 2017 to devote the I-90 express lanes to the 14-mile East Link light rail extension.

Halloween plans? No zombies or goblins will be allowed to drive on the Alaskan Way Viaduct during the day on Saturday, October 31, and Sunday, November 1, for the semi-annual inspection of the structure.

Those are just a few of the big closures you should be sure to plan around as you sip on that pumpkin spice latte while making your October plans.

Happy fall!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Coming soon to Vancouver: Ginormous girders longer than five football fields!

By Tamara Greenwell

UPDATE: The girder installation began Tuesday, Sept. 29. Watch this video to see the work in action.

It's hard not to notice the cranes, drills, trucks and machinery along Interstate 205 between State Route 500 and Mill Plain Boulevard in southwest Washington. East Vancouver is getting a new interchange, which reaches a HUGE milestone this week.

Ginormous steel girders will make their way to the work zone as part of the new Northeast 18th Street on-ramp to southbound I-205 that will help relieve congestion for drivers.

Girders are like giant Legos; they connect the support columns to the bridge deck. Like building with Legos, several steps must be completed in order for a structure to stand tall. Support columns are formed with two separate 120 feet by 8 feet steel bridge cages that are dug deep into the ground and filled with concrete. After the concrete cures, columns and support structures are constructed. Once those are set it's time for the girders to be placed on top.

Bridge foundation cage ready for installation.

Looking down into the bridge foundation cage after installation.

The girders are so big they are broken down into sections to be trucked to the work zone. It takes five sections to make up one girder. For this project we need three girders, so there are 15 different sections.

Placing girders this size is no easy task. To keep traffic moving, contractor crews will transport the girders to the construction area and set them into place overnight. A single lane of southbound I-205 will close each night, from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., Sept. 28 to Oct. 3.

Next steps
  • A temporary bridge deck mold is built on top of the girders.
  • Rebar is installed inside the temporary mold.
  • Concrete is poured into the mold, which is removed when the concrete cures and is able to support itself.
  • The first section of concrete deck is scheduled to be poured in early 2016.
Column structures on southbound I-205 south of Northeast 18th Street.

Fun facts
  • Fifteen girder sections have a combined length of 1,680 feet. That's more than five football fields in length!
  • The single longest girder section is 114 feet. That's longer than a blue whale, the largest animal on the planet.
  • Once constructed, the heaviest girder, made up of five sections, will weigh approximately 293,600 pounds, the weight of more than 11 standard school buses.
Project benefits
  • Reduce congestion on northbound I-205 between SR 14 and SR 500
  • Improve safety and reduce congestion for southbound I-205 between SR 500 and Mill Plain Boulevard
  • Improve freeway access for east Vancouver drivers
Final configuration of on- and off-ramps when the interchange project is complete.

This interchange is the last Transportation Partnership Program (TPA) project to be built in Clark County.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I-405 express toll lanes - Live updates blog

By Ethan Bergerson

We know this is going to be a big change for commuters on I-405 as we implement express toll lanes for a more reliable trip, so we're providing you with a resource to let you know how those lanes are working through the first week of use.
Check back here for daily updates on construction, commute conditions, tolls, and other important happenings on the I-405 express toll lanes.

Update 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2: Have a good weekend everyone. Don't forget that 2 person carpools can use the express toll lanes for free with a Flex Pass all weekend long.

Drivers heading north on I-405 this weekend should plan ahead for several maintenance closures this weekend. Check here for updates. 

Lane closures:

  • Saturday, Oct. 3, to Sunday, Oct. 4 - Up to three lanes of northbound I-405 from SR 520 to Northeast 85th Street will be closed from 8 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. The Express Toll Lanes will be open to all vehicles at no charge through the closure area.

Ramp closures:

  • Saturday, Oct. 3, to the morning of Sunday, Oct. 4 - The eastbound and westbound SR 520 ramps to northbound I-405 will be closed from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. 
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, to the morning of Sunday, Oct. 4 - The Northeast 70th Street on-ramp to northbound I-405 will be closed from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 3, to the morning of Sunday, Oct. 4 - The northbound I-405 off-ramp to Northeast 85th Street will be closed from 11 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Update 4:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2: We've been getting lots of questions about how to navigate the express toll lanes during a traffic incident. Click here to find out why toll signs sometimes say "HOV ONLY" and what you should do when the express toll lanes are blocked.

Update 3:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2: Welcome to the Friday evening commute. Hope you all have a safe trip home, and consider using the express toll lanes to make it to the weekend just a little bit sooner. Current travel time from Bellevue to Lynnwood is 45 minutes in regular lanes and 15 minutes in express toll lanes for $0.75.

Update 10:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 2: The first Friday commute is in the books. Thank you for your patience out there during the blocking collision. We'll post a blog later today that runs through some of the FAQs we received during that time. Right now, tolls are at 75 cents and 2+ carpools ride free w/a Flex Pass in HOV mode.

Update 8:00 a.m., Friday, Oct. 2: All lanes are clear. Toll rates from Lynnwood through Bothell peaked at over $5.00, but are now at $4.25 for the 17 mile trip.

Update 7:00 a.m., Friday, Oct. 2: HOV ONLY in the 405 ETLs southbound near SR 527. The left two lanes, including the 405 ETLs are blocked with a collision. HOV ONLY means, 3+ carpools are free with or without a Flex Pass.

Update 6:30 a.m., Friday, Oct. 2: It's Friday! Last day of the first week of express toll lanes. Tolls from Lynnwood to Bellevue are at 75 cents w/a Good To Go! pass. 3+ carpools are free with Flex Pass in HOV mode. Tweet @GoodToGoWSDOT with your end of week questions!

Update 8:00 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: More I-405 lane closures tonight for planned maintenance. We're using the express toll lane rate signs to help manage traffic, so stay alert for displays notifying you of lane closures and other changes. If you're heading south on I-405 tonight be on the lookout for a free trip from Northeast 70th Place to SR 520 as we open up the express toll lanes to everyone in order to keep traffic moving.
  • The right lane of southbound I-405 from SR 522 to Northeast 160th Street closed 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. (NO ETL CHANGES)
  • The eastboubnd and westbouind SR 522 ramps to southbound I-405 closed 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Two right lanes of southbound I-405 from Northeast 70th Place to SR 520 closed 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. (ETL OPEN TO ALL)
  • The southbound I-405 off-ramp to SR 520 closed 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Two right lanes of northbound I-405 at Northeast 160th Street closed 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (ETL OPEN TO HOV ONLY)
  • The northbound I-405 ramp to SR 522 closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • The Northeast 160th Street on-ramp to northbound I-405 closed 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Up to two left lanes of northbound I-405 from Northeast 195th Street to SR 527 closed 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. (ETL CLOSED)

Update 4:21 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: More people are jumping into the ETLs as we approach the first full week of I-405 express toll lanes. From Monday, Sept. 28, to Wednesday, Sept. 30, we saw an increase of 25 percent more drivers using the express toll lanes. We expect to see this trend increase as more drivers test out the lanes.

Update 4:00 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: All lanes of I-405 are have been cleared. Current toll rate is $1.75 for a 15 minute trip from Bellevue to Lynnwood. The same trip will take 40 minutes in the regular lanes, which is average for this time of day.

Update 3:41 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: Wondering why some northbound I-405 express toll lane signs are displaying "HOV ONLY" for some destinations? We're using these signs to help manage traffic due to a collision in Bothell. Drivers in Bellevue still have the option to pay a toll for a faster trip as far as SR 522, but we can't sell you a faster trip all the way to I-5 because the express toll lanes are blocked in Bothell.

Update 3:14 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: The collision on Northbound I-405 near NE 8th St in Bellevue has been cleared. Express toll lanes are still blocked past NE 195th St in Bothell due to a second collision.

Update 2:53 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: A second collision is now blocking the northbound I-405 express toll lanes past NE 195th St in Bothell.

Update 2:40 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: A collision is blocking both northbound I-405 express toll lanes and the left general purpose lane at NE 8th St in Bellevue. Northbound I-405 express toll lanes are both closed up to this point.

Update 11:45 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 1: During the Thursday morning commute we saw better than normal travel times on I-405 from Lynnwood to Bellevue in both the GP lanes and the express toll lanes. Tolls once again topped out at $3.75, but were on average around $1.50, and saved drivers around 20 minutes at the peak of the peak. Still have questions? Visit our website for all things express toll lanes:

Update 9:50 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30: We saw some slowdowns in the southbound I-405 regular lanes beginning at 8 p.m. when crews closed the two right general purpose lanes for planned work. Signs displayed "express toll lanes open to all (no tolls)" in order to give drivers a free way around construction, but many drivers stayed in the clogged general purpose lanes anyway. The backup has gone down now but construction will continue throughout the evening.

Update 7:15 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30: Wrapping up another quiet evening commute with more and more drivers choosing to use the express toll lanes. Night owls should plan ahead for some lane closures throughout the I-405 corridor tonight as we perform planned maintenance work. Roadwork will begin as early as 8 p.m. in some locations and all lanes are planned to reopen by 5 a.m. Signs will notify drivers when express toll lanes are closed, or when toll lanes are open to all.

Update 5:00 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30:
Our traffic engineers are keeping a close eye on I-405's regular lanes to see how traffic is moving. I-405 travel time data shows that commutes in the regular lanes remained close to normal after express toll lanes opened. Traffic volumes on I-5 are steady as too. After several days of operation, the new Interstate 405 express toll lanes are working well.

Update 4:20 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30: We're seeing completely normal commute times in the general purpose lanes northbound and southbound on both I-405 and I-5, with the express toll lanes offering a faster commute to drivers who need it. Current traffic on I-405 is average in both directions; travel time from Bellevue to Lynnwood is 40 minutes in the regular lanes or 15 minutes in express toll lanes for $1.25. Current trip time from Seattle to Everett on I-5 general purpose lanes is 60 minutes, which is typical as well.

Update 3:00 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30: All lanes of the express toll lanes are open, just in time for the afternoon peak commute. Carpools with 3 or more passengers can travel for free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode. Current toll rate is $0.75 with any kind of Good To Go! pass. You can also choose to Pay By Mail for $2 more if you don't have an account.

Update 2:34 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30: One lane of express toll lane now open at NE 8th St. Vehicles can once again enter express toll lanes at NE 4th St or NE 6th St direct access ramp. Current toll rate is $0.75.

Update 2:20 p.m., Wednesday Sept 30: On I-405 northbound at NE 8th St there is a collision blocking both express toll lanes. NE 6th St direct access ramps are restricted to HOV and buses only, with no express toll lane access at NE 4th St. Vehicles can cross the double white lines to get out of the lanes prior to the collision and return to the lanes after the collision.

Update 10 a.m., Wednesday Sept 30: We saw a lighter commute on southbound I-405 between Lynnwood and Bellevue today. We reached $3.75 at the peak of the peak in the express toll lanes and saw a 25 min time savings. Right now, 2+ carpools are free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode and tolls are 75 cents throughout the corridor.

Update 8 a.m., Wednesday Sept 30: The fog is lifting, and we're seeing better commute times in both the express toll and general purpose lanes this morning. Tolls at about $2 with a Good To Go! pass from Lynnwood to Bellevue.

Update 7:15 a.m., Wednesday Sept 30: We're seeing normal commute times on southbound I-405 from Lynnwood to Bellevue in the GP lanes - that's around 40 minutes. The express toll lanes will save you about 20 minutes right now for $1.00 w/a Good To Go! pass. Pay By Mail will cost an additional $2.

Update 6 a.m., Wednesday Sept 30: Morning commute #3 with the I-405 express toll lanes. Right now, toll rates are 75 cents and 3+ carpools are free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode. Map your trip before you leave the house:

Update 7:30 p.m., Tuesday Sept 29: It's the tail end of a quiet evening commute in both the express toll lanes and regular lanes. More drivers are choosing to use the express toll lanes, which offered a 15 minute trip from Bellevue to Lynnwood for between $0.75 and $2.50. We're happy to see typical commute times in the regular lanes too, but still expect traffic to fluctuate for a few weeks as drivers learn to use the lanes. We predict it will take six months to a year for traffic to fully adjust and for express toll lanes to reach their full potential.

Update 5:40 p.m., Tuesday Sept 29: A lot of drivers are choosing to use the express toll lanes tonight. Many drivers are using sticker passes, any kind of Good To Go! pass will work to pay the lowest toll rates.Toll rates are currently $1.50 for a 15 minute trip from Bellevue to Lynnwood. Travel times in regular lanes are 50 minutes, which is typical for this time of day.

Update 4:10 p.m., Tuesday Sept 29: Express toll lane usage up during Tuesday morning commute. While Tuesday morning's general purpose traffic was slow, it was within the range we've seen for commutes on I-405 in the past few years. General purpose lane trips from Lynnwood to Bellevue ranged from 55 to 68 minutes. Express toll lanes offered drivers a new choice to experience a much faster 17 minute trip for an average toll of $1.75.

Update 3 p.m., Tuesday Sept 29: Still need a Flex Pass? We hand delivered 1100 passes to Walgreens stores today. That's in addition to 1100 more that we delivered to QFC and Walgreens yesterday, and 1400 last Friday. Click here for a list of participating stores, and be sure to call ahead to confirm that they're on the shelves at your local store.

Update 10 a.m., Tuesday Sept 29: The morning commute was rough today due to several major traffic collisions and the changes on I-405. Thank you for your patience! Right now 2+ carpools w/a Flex Pass are free and tolls are 75 cents through the corridor.

Update 8:30 a.m., Tuesday Sept 29: GP lane travel times continue to increase around the region today. On I-405, we ask for drivers' patience. We're at the start of a learning curve as everyone gets familiar with express toll lanes and traffic patterns will change daily. We're seeing a travel time savings of 40 mins in the express toll lanes for a toll of $1.50.

Update 6:45 a.m., Tuesday Sept 29: We're seeing increased congestion in the GP lanes as expected for the first week with express toll lanes. Right now, the ETLs will save you about 30 minutes for between $1.00-$2.50. Coming from Lynnwood? First entry point is just north of SR 527.

Update 5:30 a.m., Tuesday Sept 29: Morning commute #2 with the I-405 express toll lanes. Yesterday morning, the drive between Lynnwood and Bellevue took approximately 16 minutes in the ETLs, and the average toll rate was $1.50 for the 17 mile trip. Right now, toll rates are 75 cents and 3+ carpools are free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode. Map your trip before you leave the house:

Update 8:15 p.m., Monday Sept 28: For the first time in years, Interstate 405 drivers had a choice today for a reliable weekday commute using express toll lanes. For $1.50 in the morning and a 75 cent toll in the afternoon, drivers saved about 30 minutes on their commute between Bellevue and Lynnwood. On Monday afternoon, the regular lanes of I-405 ran about only five minutes slower than an average Monday afternoon.

Update 5:40 p.m., Monday Sept 28: Travel time in express toll lanes from Bellevue to Lynnwood has been a steady 15 minutes all afternoon offering a faster and more reliable trip for carpools, vanpools, transit riders, or who drivers choose to pay $0.75. Regular lane travel times remain close to average at 45 minute from Bellevue to Lynnwood.

Update 4:30 p.m., Monday Sept 28: Tolls are currently $0.75 northbound from Bellevue to Lynnwood for an estimated time savings of about 25 minutes. The current travel time in the regular lanes is 40 minutes, in comparison the average travel time at this time of day is 35 minutes.

Update 3:22 p.m., Monday Sept 28: Details on the first Monday morning commute are now available online: Drivers ease into the I-405 express toll lanes during first commute Monday.

Update 3:00 p.m., Monday Sept 28: Three person carpools can now drive for free with a Flex Pass. Toll rates are currently $0.75 northbound from Bellevue to Lynnwood for a 15-20 minute time savings. Drivers can use any kind of Good To Go! pass to pay the lowest toll rate.

Update 10 a.m, Monday Sept. 28: Two person carpools free w/Flex Pass - Morning commute is winding down. Toll rates are 75 cents and two person carpoolers are now free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode.

Update 8 a.m, Monday Sept. 28: Major time savings in the 405 ETLs - As morning commute congestion increases in the GP lanes, we're seeing more use and major times savings in the express toll lanes.  Toll rates hover between $1.50 and $2.50 from Lynnwood to Bellevue to go 45 mph or faster. No pass pay. 3+ carpool rides free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode.

Update 7 a.m, Monday Sept. 28: 17 mile trip past traffic between 75 cents and $2.00 Travel from I-5 in Lynnwood to NE 6th Street in downtown Bellevue in express toll lanes at 45 mph or faster. No pass pay. 3+ carpool rides free with a Flex Pass in HOV mode.

Update 6:30 a.m., Monday Sept. 28: Save time ETLs this AM- Toll rates are around $2.00 to go 45 mph through heavy traffic SB on I-405 from the I-5 merge to Bellevue.

Update 6:10 a.m., Monday Sept 28: Collision on SB 405 is clear There is a collision blocking the center lane near I-405 southbound just south of SR 522 is n ow clear. Toll rates in the express toll lanes are holding at 75 cents.

Update 6 a.m., Monday Sept 28: Know before you go There is a collision blocking the center lane near I-405 southbound just south of SR 522. Pay attention to the signs on the roadway and stay alert out there. A lot has changed between Bellevue and Lynnwood.  You must only enter and exit the express toll lanes at designated access points. Plan your trip with our Interactive Map before you leave the house:

Update 5 a.m., Monday, Sept 28: Morning Peak is in effect Good morning! We're officially in the first peak commute. Don't forget, you need 3 passengers and an activated Flex Pass in HOV mode to ride free as a carpool. All all the Good To Go! passes will work or you can Pay By Mail. Stay alert out there, a lot has changed on the roadway.

Update 1:10 p.m., Sunday, Sept 27: We're live on I-405! Express toll lanes opened to traffic at 1 p.m. today. Even if you don't have a Flex Pass, you can pay to use the I-405 express toll lanes with any Good To Go! pass or using Pay By Mail.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Want to see kickoff this weekend? Don’t take I-405

By Caitlin Morris

So you’ve been hearing about express toll lanes for a while now. It’s finally go time: the I-405 express toll lanes start this Sunday, September 27.

But before the new lanes can open, crews have to complete 300,000 feet of restriping on I-405 – that’s 850 CenturyLink Fields! To do that, I-405 will be funneled down to two lanes between Bellevue and Bothell. That means 250,000 weekend drivers need to plan for big delays or use alternate routes to get where they need to be this weekend.

Closure details 
Between 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 to noon Sunday, Sept. 27:

  • Two lanes in both directions of I-405 will remain open between I-90 in Bellevue and NE 195th in Bothell 
  • All NE 6th Direct Access Ramps will be closed 
  • All NE 128th Direct Access Ramps will be closed 
  • During late evening and early morning hours, southbound I-405 may be reduced to one lane in each direction at SR 520 and SR 522

The work we’re doing is weather dependent. If it is delayed, it will impact the Sunday, Sept. 27, opening of express toll lanes.

Check out our fact sheet (pdf 548 kb) for detours and closure information. Also, you can get real-time traffic information on your phone with the WSDOT traffic app, by tracking the WSDOT traffic Twitter feed, and get advanced information from the What’s Happening Now page.

It’s not just the Seahawks kicking off on Sunday: Express toll lanes go live Sept. 27
Come Sunday, drivers will have a new option to get home faster when the new I-405 express toll lanes open to traffic. Learn everything you need to know and get Good to Go! on

Ready. Set. Go live!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What to expect when I-405 express toll lanes open

By Ethan Bergerson
I-405 Express Toll Lanes Interactive Map

With just five days until the Interstate 405 express toll lanes open, the question on everyone's mind is what will traffic look like in the first few days, weeks, and months after express toll lanes open on Sept. 27. Drivers should pack their patience next Monday morning, as we expect it may be a challenging commute as drivers adjust to the changes.

We've been researching similar projects across the country in order to make an educated prediction about what to expect here, and we want to share what we've learned.

It takes time to get up to full speed
Every express toll lane project in the country has experienced a transition period at the start. We expect it will take traffic six months to a year to adjust as drivers learn the ins and outs of using the I-405 express toll lanes.

Especially with the first commute on Monday and through the first few weeks, we expect congestion in the regular lanes as more drivers familiarize themselves with entry and exit points, learn to read the signs, and grow comfortable enough to give the new lanes a try.

LA Metro ExpressLanes along I-110 and I-10 showed that it takes time for drivers to become familiar with the new lanes and for traffic to settle. Initial travel times increased and speeds decreased, but, they steadily improved over the one-year demonstration. These results spurred Metro to continue with the program.

Once drivers are accustomed to using the express toll lanes, this system will move more people more efficiently, in both the express toll lanes and in the regular lanes, by offering a choice to drivers to buy into the express toll lanes when they need it most.

The success stories are encouraging
More than 30 express toll lane systems have been successfully implemented in places around the United States, including Orange County, Calif.; Miami; Atlanta and our very own SR 167 HOT Lanes.
  • The SR 167 HOT Lanes have been a large success. Last year, the HOT lanes provided weekday drivers with an average time savings of eight minutes during the morning peak hour for an average toll of $2.25.
  • After express toll lanes opened on I-95 in Miami, HOV lane speeds tripled and regular lane speeds doubled.
  • The SR 91 Express Toll Lanes between Orange and Riverside counties in Calif. saves users an average of 30 minutes on their commute.
Will we get similar results on I-405? That remains to be seen, but we certainly think the express toll lanes will help traffic through the corridor. Some commuters will experience benefits from day one, transit, vanpools and carpools are going to get through the corridor much faster and more predictably in the express toll lanes. In addition, non-carpoolers will now have the option to pay a toll to use these new lanes. Getting people to their destination as quickly and safely as possible is our goal, and we're confident that this is a solution that will work for our region.

Believe it or not, public support improves with time
We know you're skeptical, that's to be expected. Across the country, public opinion polls found that people doubted express toll lanes the most just before opening but this eventually grew into support. Drivers want to see express toll lanes work before they believe they will help

Before San Diego implemented express toll lanes in 1996, only a quarter of drivers approved of the idea. However, a year later public support had increased to 65 percent.

Don't believe it could happen here? A recent customer survey of SR 167 HOT lane users showed that over two thirds of drivers believed the money they spent to use the lanes was well worth it and wanted to see express toll lanes expanded to other freeways in our region.

Are you ready for the big I-405 closures Sept. 25-27? Don't be late for kickoff – get detours and closure details here.

Please note that this work is weather dependent. If it is delayed, it will impact the Sunday, Sept. 27 opening of the express toll lanes.

Top 10 things you need to know about I-405 express toll lanes

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Seeing Double: Restriping begins between Bothell and Lynnwood on I-405

By Caitlin Morris

What do 850 football fields, 1,500 Boeing 747 wingspans and the height of 21 Mt. Rainiers have in common? They all stretch 300,000 feet. That's also how much new striping our crews will install on Interstate 405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood in preparation for express toll lanes opening Sept. 27. Starting as early as late Friday, Sept. 18, between Interstate 5 in Lynnwood and NE 160th Street, drivers will begin to see double white lines on I-405. Restricted HOV access begins Saturday.

The new stripes will mean changes to how you use the I-405 HOV lane.

You don't need an optometrist, you're just seeing double! 
Today, carpoolers have continuous access to the HOV lane, which means they can enter and exit at any point. The new double white lines between Bellevue and Lynnwood will create a buffer between the express toll lanes on the far left side of the road and the regular lanes. Once the double white lines are installed, you can only enter and exit the HOV lane at designated access points marked by a dashed white line.

Enforcement begins once the double lines are installed
While tolling doesn't start until Sept. 27, Washington State Patrol will begin enforcing the double white line policy as soon as the new lines are installed. Failure to use designated access points may result in a $136 ticket for crossing the double white lines.

What does this mean for me?
Let's say you travel southbound on I-405, between Lynnwood to Woodinville. You will only have two chances to exit the express toll lanes prior to the SR 522 interchange and will need to leave the express toll lanes sooner than you previously had to merge out of the HOV lanes.

You can plug in your own trip into our express toll lanes interactive map to see what your new commute on I-405 will look like. You can also check out our animated video to get a virtual feel for a potential trip in the express toll lanes.

We realize this will be a big change for carpoolers traveling between Bothell and Lynnwood, and we encourage drivers to try to familiarize themselves with the new access points ahead of time, but we know there will still be a learning curve.

Construction FYI
Painting the stripes is weather dependent because the roadway needs to be dry for the paint to adhere to the road. Because of that, we suggest getting the most up-to-date construction information on the I-405 Construction Updates page.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Top 10 things you need to know about I-405 express toll lanes

By Laura Johnson

The I-405 express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood begin operating Sept. 27. Here's a list of things you should be familiar with to be ready for tolling on I-405.

1. Flex Pass – If you carpool on I-405, you'll need a Flex Pass set to HOV mode and the right number of people to ride toll-free in the express toll lanes. Flex Passes work to pay tolls on any toll road in Washington. If you're not sure if you need a Flex Pass, click here.

2. Carpool rules – You'll need three people to form a carpool during weekday peak hours (5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.). Weekdays from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. only two people are required. The express toll lanes are open to all for free on weekdays from 7 p.m. - 5 a.m. and all day on weekends.

3. Activate your Flex Pass – If you got a free Flex Pass by taking our online survey or purchased a pass at one of our retail partners (Fred Meyer, QFC or Walgreens) you'll need to go online to set up and fund a Good To Go! account and activate your pass.

4. Rate Signs – Signs will tell you everything you need to know about the current carpool requirements and toll rates so that you can make an informed choice about whether you want to choose to use the lanes for that trip. With a Good To Go! pass, you always pay the price you see when you enter, even if you see a higher toll rate further down the road. If you don't have an account, you'll receive a bill in the mail for the Good To Go! pass rate plus an extra $2 per toll transaction.

5. Toll Rates – Toll rates are based on current traffic and will typically vary between 75 cents to $4 per trip depending on time and distance traveled. The highest possible toll rate for a single trip is $10. The price goes up when lots of vehicles are using the express toll lanes and the price drops as demand for the lanes goes down. This dynamic pricing manages congestion in the express toll lanes to keep speeds at a minimum of 45 mph.

6. Designated entry/exit points – The express toll lanes will be separated from the regular lanes by double white lines that are illegal to cross. Vehicles can enter and exit at dashed segments in the double white lines, or at direct access ramps to NE 6th St in Bellevue or NE 128th St in Totem Lake
Interactive map: Learn where you can enter and exit the lanes and what
the toll rate signs will look like during your trip.

7. Enforcement – Washington State Patrol will enforce the express toll lanes. Troopers will know when a vehicle is using a Flex Pass or motorcycle pass to avoid tolls. There will be extra troopers in the corridor enforcing the carpool requirement.

8. Animated videos – Watch a playlist of short videos or this 4.5-minute "Everything You Need to Know" video.

9. Motorcycles – All motorcycles will need a motorcycle pass to ride toll-free in the express toll lanes. You can get a free motorcycle pass while supplies last in 2015 by taking a brief survey.

10. – Visit the official website for the I-405 express toll lanes, with the above information and more.

Less than two weeks to go!

Friday, September 11, 2015

What you need to know about the extended SR 104 Hood Canal bridge closures

UPDATE 3:17 p.m. Sept. 11: Today's afternoon bridge opening ended much earlier than anticipated and the bridge is open to vehicle traffic at this time. Be prepared for additional extended closures this weekend by checking the status of the bridge before you go.


If you use the SR 104 Hood Canal bridge, you've likely heard about us asking drivers to be prepared for extended vehicle traffic closures.

The extended vehicular closures are the result of three converging circumstances that risk putting the bridge’s drawspan out of alignment: high tides, a disengaged anchor cable being replaced as part of a planned construction project and requests by mariners for drawspan openings.

By law, we must accommodate marine traffic requests within one hour’s notice. We've asks mariners to request drawspan openings only at slack tide throughout the weekend while the anchor cable is being installed and tensioned.

Mariners have been flexible to changing the time of bridge opening requests for boat passage. However, there's still a risk of extended vehicle closures similar to the 6-hour unplanned closure on Thursday.

Bridge closure for Friday, Sept. 11
The Hood Canal bridge will close to traffic at 2:45 p.m. today. This is an hour delay from the originally planned closure time, resulting from a change in the request from a mariner.

Postponing the beginning of the closure does not change the scenario of a potentially extended vehicular closure through slack tide at 5:30 p.m. We'll attempt to reopen the bridge to traffic as soon as possible.

Where to check for vehicle traffic closures
We'll be updating the Hood Canal Bridge website throughout the weekend. Please check that page before you go or sign up for text alerts by testing "wsdot hood" to 468311. You can unsubscribe from receiving alerts by texting "wsdot stop" to the same number.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Signs of progress coming to I-405

By Ethan Bergerson

The Interstate 405 express toll lanes will open in just over two weeks, and drivers can easily spot the signs of the changes coming to the heavily traveled corridor on Sunday, Sept. 27.

New signs are popping up along I-405, and over the weekend of Sept. 12-13 many more signs will be installed marking the entrances and exits to the express toll lanes. We want to take a moment to give you a preview of some of the signs you will see and answer some of the questions that you may have.

What new signs can drivers expect to see?

We’re preparing for the I-405 express toll lanes by installing nearly 150 new signs between Bellevue and Lynnwood. Unveiling these signs early will also help get the word out to the nearly 500,000 daily users of I-405 so that they can find out what they need to do to get ready before the lanes open. However, we’re not going to collect any tolls until Sept. 27.


Double white line markers. You might have already seen some signs notifying drivers not to cross the double white lines. The double white lines aren’t there yet – we’ll begin painting those in segments starting about a week before the express toll lanes open.

Local exits. Once you’re in an express toll lane, you will only be able to exit at a designated access point. The new local access signs will give you advanced notice of the upcoming access points so that you can plan your drive and have time to reach upcoming off-ramps.

We’ll talk more next week about why designated access points are beneficial and necessary on I-405. You can also plan your route and find your local access points on our I-405 interactive map.

Drivers will see HOV ONLY on the
signs until express toll lanes
open Sept. 27.
Toll rate signs. Covered toll rate signs have been up for months displaying coded test messages, but over the weekend of Sept. 12-13 crews will unveil all the signs. Drivers will see the message “HOV only” meaning the lanes will continue to operate as they do today…until September 27.

While we’re not charging any tolls yet, when the express toll lanes open these signs will tell you everything you need to know about the current carpool requirements and toll rates so that you
Once express toll lanes open, these
signs will display toll rates and HOV
requirements, which will either be
3+ or 2+ depending on time of day.
can make an informed choice about whether you want to use thelanes for that trip.

Toll rates are based on current traffic conditions in the express toll lanes, and you always pay the price you see when you enter, even if you see a higher toll rate further down the road. Rate signs will also tell you the current carpool requirements.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

SR 520 Program helps keep the salmon swimming

By Olivia Rother

Few things are as widely revered in the Pacific Northwest as the salmon. The fish's esteem here runs deep, from the Native Americans who for millennia thrived on salmon to the tourists who delight in watching fishmongers hurl an ice-bathed sockeye at Seattle's Pike Place Market. Given the fish's iconic status, it's no surprise that improving salmon habitat is a high priority for our agency when we look for ways to mitigate the environmental effects of our construction projects. 

Juvenile Chinook salmon (photo by Roger Tabor)
In the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program, for example, we are pursuing a number of projects to improve and restore salmon-bearing streams and shorelines. Many of these projects are
located in or around Lake Washington, including:
  • A restored section of Yarrow Creek
    and a new, fish-friendly culvert
    built beneath SR 520.
    The Cedar River Elliott Bridge Reach project, which involves aquatic-habitat improvements, floodplain restoration and wetland establishment aimed at boosting the river's Chinook stocks. 
  • The East Approach project, where we'll enhance spawning habitat for sockeye salmon beneath and alongside the SR 520 floating bridge's east approach. Key elements involve supplementing lake-bed gravel along the shoreline, removing an existing bulkhead and rubble, and restoring and replanting the shoreline.
  • The Yarrow Creek project, where we made channel improvements to this urban creek and adjoining Eastside streams, and installed larger culverts under the roadway to eliminate potential barriers to fish migration. We also upgraded numerous culverts and stream channels.
  • The Evans Creek project, which included substantial improvements to the creek and its wetland floodplain. Evans Creek contains three distinct Chinook salmon populations.
  • The Bear Creek project, where we improved salmon habitat by restoring portions of this Redmond creek through realignment and reconstruction of the channel, riparian and floodplain restoration, and planting of native riparian vegetation.
Our most recently completed project is the south Lake Washington shoreline restoration project. This effort re-established about a quarter mile of nearshore and upland habitat on a three-acre property next to Boeing's Renton Plant, near the mouth of the Cedar River.

The shores of Lake Washington are a vital nursery for young salmon. Most of the shoreline at this location, however, had been altered by fill and man-made structures that destroyed the shallow near-shore habitat small salmon require. This shoreline restoration project not only removed many of those structures but also planted native trees and shoreline vegetation, and removed invasive vegetation from the site. In addition, we established more suitable juvenile salmon habitat by regrading nearshore areas and re-establishing critical shallow areas, and extended two stormwater outfalls to avoid disturbing the restored shallow habitat. 

These steps will help re-establish vital rearing habitat for migrating salmon; improve water quality with a healthy upland habitat of native trees, bushes and grasses; and provide essential shallow-beach habitat in the lake that supports many other wildlife species. The project also involves pre- and post-project monitoring that will provide information about the success of the restoration and use of the site by juvenile salmon over time.
The south Lake Washington site before restoration.
The south Lake Washington site after restoration.
The south Lake Washington shoreline restoration project has been a highly successful collaboration between the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), WSDOT, and The Boeing Company. We supported the restoration project as partial mitigation for the environmental impacts of constructing the new SR 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington — the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program. As part of an ongoing effort to enhance Lake Washington, DNR received a grant for the planning, design and permitting of a restoration project at this south Lake Washington site. Boeing provided funding to DNR to replace stormwater outfalls and extend them to deeper water.

Our agency works on a variety of mitigation projects to improve the region's parks, natural areas, and historic and cultural resources.  These mitigation projects are part of our overall commitment to environmental stewardship. For more information on the additional 14 SR 520 mitigation projects, check out the SR 520 website.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

We salute the women and men of Washington’s marine highways

By Broch Bender

As Labor Day approaches, we at Washington State Ferries tip our hats to the well over one thousand five hundred individuals who labor through all kinds of weather, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to keep the largest, safest ferry system in the United States moving.

Tony Boaz works through the night at the Eagle Harbor ferry maintenance yard to make sure your ferry is ship-shape for the morning commute. With 30 years of experience as a WSF machinist, he knows how to fix ‘em all. One of his top tasks is to train new staff on a variety of engines from the new Rolls Royce powered Olympic Class vessels to our three-boat-fleet of World War Two era Evergreen State ships. When Tony isn’t arm-deep inside an onboard power plant, you’ll likely find him backpacking in the Olympic Mountains with his two sons.

Tony Boaz, a machinist and member of the International
Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.
If you’ve ever charged your phone, enjoyed a hot meal or noticed the smooth ride aboard our ferries, it’s dedicated marine electricians like David Coulter who help make it happen. David’s job is to keep the entire electrical grid buzzing, keep the lights on, the propeller spinning, and the outlets ready for plug-ins. He has worked on boats for decades; in fact he lives aboard a 1970’s era sailboat just a short bike ride from where he works at the Eagle Harbor ferry maintenance yard.

David Coulter, a marine electrician and International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union member.

It takes a talented terminal supervisor like Jennie Buswell to make the Fauntleroy (West Seattle) ferry dock hum. She assists with the budget, assigns staff and treats our customers like family. Jennie’s also responsible for making sure the vessels stay on schedule on this busy commuter and tourist route. In her spare time, she likes to train for triathlons by riding her bike up and down the hills of Tacoma.

Jennie Buswell, a terminal supervisor and member of the Ferry
Agents, Supervisors and Project Administrator’s
Association union.
Whether the ferry is tied up for the night, at the maintenance yard or underway, crews and terminal staff are constantly at work to maintain and repair the fleet. Oilers like Dan Delaney, of the Edmonds-Kingston route, monitors temperature and pressure gauges inside the boat’s engine room which prevents the huge diesel engines from overheating.

Dan Delaney, an oiler and member of the Marine Engineers’
Beneficial Association, the oldest maritime trade union
in the U.S.
We operate up to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many of those days are gray and rainy. When visibility is an issue, it takes the careful stewardship of crew like Quartermaster Cindy Amo to navigate your ferry through pea-soup fog. Cindy safely navigates the vessel between Edmonds and Kingston. She constantly checks the radar for obstacles, to plot a careful course around unseen fishing trawlers, kayaks, even large freighters that could cross the ferry’s path. Cindy began her career at WSF in 1980, working her way up from cleaning the cabin as an Ordinary Seaman to her current work, side-by-side with the captain in the pilot house.

Cindy Amo, a quartermaster and member of the
Inlandboatman’s Union of the Pacific.
These are just a few of the amazing professional, highly trained mariners working on our vessels and terminals system wide.  On this Labor Day, we say, “Thanks, we can’t do it without you,” and salute them all for a job well done.