Thursday, October 29, 2015

One Month in Review: What we’ve heard from drivers

By Jennifer Rash

If you live in the Puget Sound region, and haven’t been on vacation over the last month, you‘ve likely heard a lot of information about the new I-405 express toll lanes.  And, as you can imagine, we have heard a lot from drivers.

We’ve heard positive stories from folks praising the reliability of the new system, how it cut their car and transit commutes in half and they get to spend more time with their families. We also know it’s been a big change and we’ve heard a lot of comments about shifting congestion, confusion about the double white lines and long wait times for customer service.

We’ve taken to Twitter, Facebook, this blog and the media to try and help answer your questions, and here are the Top 5 that keep coming up.

1. We paid gas tax for this road, how can you ask us to pay again? 
Yes, the lanes on I-405 have been built with federal and state gas taxes over the years.  It’s also true that communities around I-405 are experiencing growth, causing some of the worst congestion in the state. Beyond the cost to build and expand the highway, new improvements are necessary to support this growth and reduce congestion. Before express toll lanes, the HOV lane was at capacity during peak periods, with speeds falling below 45 mph on 200 or more days a year. Express toll lanes are a sustainable solution to maintain reliability on the roadway over time. You don’t have to pay the toll; using the express lanes is an option when you really need it.

2. Why not just build new regular lanes?
We know from our experience here in Washington and from other states facing similar challenges, we cannot simply expand the roadway to solve congestion. Studies show that, time and time again, the new lanes eventually fill up when the population grows. What happens then? Is the answer to keep building more and more lanes? We need to invite and accept creative solutions to help manage the growing demand on our roadways. Over the last decade, we’ve explored and implemented a range of solutions to help with the growing congestion on I-405 including adding more regular lanes, improvements to local roads, increasing transit service, adding park and ride spaces and vanpools, and operating express toll lanes.  After years of study, we found that express toll lanes could move 30 percent more vehicles and people compared to building a regular lane. They also offer drivers a choice for a reliable trip whenever they need it.

3. How does changing the carpool requirement to 3+ during peak hours help reduce traffic?  
The Washington State Transportation Commission made this change because the 2+ carpool lanes were breaking down at peak times, not meeting state requirements to move traffic at 45 mph 90 percent of the time. Buses, vanpools and carpools were often stuck in the same congestion as folks in the regular lanes, receiving little to no benefit from the carpool lanes. The change to a 3+ peak requirement brought the benefit and reliability back to those lanes, and with express toll lanes, folks with less than three passengers can benefit from the additional capacity for a price. During off-peak times and weekends, vehicles with a Flex Pass in HOV mode can ride free with two passengers.

4. Is WSDOT only operating express toll lanes for the money?
Any revenue generated beyond operating costs will go in a dedicated account for I-405 and will be reinvested back into the corridor. The whole point of the express toll lanes is to create a new reliable option for drivers. Without express toll lanes, the highway would only become more congested over time. New general purpose lanes would fill up and the reliability would be gone. Some drivers might choose to use the express toll lanes every day, but most will use them when they need them for a variety of reasons that are personal to those hundreds of thousands of individuals.

5. Why is 75 percent of the toll revenue going to a company in Texas? 
This has come up frequently over the past few months, and it’s false.  We’d like to give you a breakdown of the costs.

On average, 54 cents of a Good To Go! toll paid on I-405 goes toward toll collection.

  • Customer Service Center operations and billing operations receives 20 cents of those 54 cents. Both services are provided by a vendor from Richardson, Texas. They employ more than 120 people in the greater Seattle area.  Their compensation is independent of traffic or toll rate levels, meaning they get the same amount no matter what the toll rate is or how much congestion there is.
  • The Roadway Toll System operations and maintenance team receives 15 cents from every toll. This service is provided by a vendor from Rockville, Maryland. They have a core staff of six in the greater Seattle area. Their compensation is also independent of traffic or toll rate levels.  
  • State Operations and credit card processing receives 19 cents. This includes our staff costs, consulting support, and staff related costs such as rent, phones and computers, data collection tools, software and office supplies.  

The remainder of the toll (dark green area) goes toward other costs including enforcement, transponders, and a dedicated fund  for future I-405 improvements as approved by the state legislature.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

#405ETL one month in

In this blog post, we’re going to share what we’ve learned in the first month of tolling, paying especially close attention to the benefits we’re seeing in the morning commute and the new chokepoints drivers are experiencing north of SR 522 in the evenings.

Big time savings during morning commutes
We’re seeing time savings up to 20 minutes in the regular lanes of southbound I-405 during morning commutes. The average travel time for a trip from Lynnwood to Bellevue at the peak time of 7:30 AM has been about 40 minutes since the express toll lanes opened, about 20 minutes less than it was in October 2014, and 10 minutes less than it was in October 2013.

People who chose to pay a toll, carpool, or take the bus all saw even bigger time savings. During weekday morning peak hours, the I-405 express toll lanes saved drivers going southbound an average of 15 minutes for an average of $1.70 compared to the general purpose lanes.

How can this be? Thanks to added capacity between Bothell and Bellevue, the express toll lanes are now carrying more vehicles than the old HOV lanes ever could, including many cars that used to be stuck in the regular lanes. The following graph illustrates just how many more vehicles are travelling at free-flow speeds in the express toll lanes.

Evening commute benefits are harder to see
Evening drivers in the regular lanes on northbound I-405 did not see as dramatic a time savings, but may still have experienced some benefits depending on how far they travelled. The average travel time for the full 17 mile trip from Bellevue to Lynwood was a few minutes shorter than the same trip last October, and about the same as travel times in October 2013. While this benefit seems small when compared to the improvements for morning drivers, it still represents a trend reversal from commute times that have been steadily increasing over the last few years as the number of cars on I-405 has risen due to a growing population and booming economy.

As in the mornings, the biggest benefit was for bus riders, carpoolers, and any driver who chose to pay a toll. During weekday evening peak hours, the I-405 express toll lanes saved drivers going northbound an average of 17 minutes for an average of $1.60 compared to the general purpose lanes.

Shifting congestion points mean longer travel times from Bothell to Lynnwood
As we said last week, we’re seeing congestion points shift as the new braided ramps have helped to lessen the bottleneck at the SR 522 junction which has led to increased congestion further north along the highway. If you’re driving the entire 17 miles from Bellevue to Lynwood, you might get home slightly sooner, but if you’re making a shorter trip north of SR 522 you’ll likely experience new delays.

Previously, evening commuters experienced heavy congestion from Bellevue to SR 522, and moderate congestion from SR 522 to I-5. Now, heavy congestion in Bellevue starts and ends a little earlier. By 5 p.m. congestion is starting to lessen in Bellevue, with a 2 mile stretch of stop-and-go traffic in Kirkland, followed by about 5 miles of mostly free-flow traffic up to SR 522. However, heavy congestion north of Bothell is now starting earlier and building up from 3:30 – 7 p.m.

What to expect in the future
It will take traffic six months to a year to fully adjust and settle into a new normal. It’s too soon to draw long-term conclusions. We anticipate congestion points will shift and may vary day to day and month to month in the meantime.

For now, we’re closely monitoring I-405 to identify challenging areas. We are collecting comments from drivers, and watching the flow of traffic to see if adjustments will reduce new areas of traffic and where backups shifted to. We’re paying especially close attention to access points near SR 527 and SR 520 to look for opportunities to make improvements. We can’t make changes until we’ve fully assessed the impacts, but we did plan ahead by using temporary striping to allow for adjustments to access in the future.

State’s newest floating bridge now all decked out

 By Haylee Morse-Miller

We haven’t waved a green flag yet over the new SR 520 floating bridge.  But with last week’s final concrete pour for the bridge’s roadway, it’s only a matter of months before drivers are cruising across Lake Washington on the new, six-lane span.

We’ve completed tons of work – many tons of work – since project construction began four years ago. Hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete have gone into building the bridge’s pontoons, anchors, roadway deck, high-rise piers, and support columns. Just one of the 21 longitudinal pontoons for the new bridge weighs 11,000 tons, or as much as 23 Boeing 747s.

The final deck pour in progress on Oct. 22.

So pouring the last of this concrete to finish the nearly 2-mile-long roadway surface is a big milestone for the SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landings Project. It’s now physically possible for vehicles to cross the entire length of the floating bridge, from Medina all the way to the existing west approach bridge in Seattle. A lot more work remains, however, before traffic actually switches over from old bridge to new. Here are some of the key tasks we’ll be tackling before we open the new bridge next spring.

Crews lower the foundation for a noise wall on
the bridge’s east approach near Medina.
Bridge barrier and noise wall installation: More than 26,000 feet of traffic barrier will be placed along the entire length of the bridge. Also, concrete noise walls will be installed along the bridge’s east approach to reduce the traffic noise heard by nearby residents in Medina.

A barge deposits rock ballast into a pontoon.

Pontoon ballasting: Ballast rock is being placed inside the pontoons to ensure that the pontoons all sit at the same height in the water. In all, some 70,000 tons of the ballast rock, hauled in by barge, will be added to the pontoons.


Stormwater drainage pipes are part of the stormwater treatment
system to capture roadway runoff from the bridge. 

Stormwater drainage system installation: Catch basins along the roadway and piping that runs along the underside of the roadway deck will capture roadway runoff, lessening the environmental impact of the bridge on Lake Washington.

Outside view of the LEED Silver certified bridge
maintenance facility.
Some of the 300 miles of electrical wire that will
be used on the bridge – enough wire to stretch
from Seattle to Idaho.

Bridge maintenance facility construction:
A new bridge-maintenance facility is under construction below the East Approach of the bridge, on the Medina shoreline. This facility will house maintenance and repair equipment for the bridge and allow crews to quickly respond to any bridge-maintenance needs that arise.


Connecting bridge safety and management systems: These are the invisible hands that keep traffic flowing, including fire-safety systems, bridge sensors, and electronic traffic signs, like those showing variable speed limits.  


A rendering of the bicycle/pedestrian path on the bridge,
including one of the decorative sentinels that mark the
ends of the bridge.


Completion of architectural elements: Crews will install bridge lighting and decorative “sentinels” that mark the east and west ends of the longest floating bridge in the world. On the bridge’s 14-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian path, we’ll finish installing rest areas/viewpoints, or “belvederes,” as well as nearly 8,500 feet of railing.

You can follow the progress of our final bridge-building activities as we count down to project completion. View this bridge-commissioning graphic on our website – and start to get excited about crossing the world’s longest floating highway in spring 2016!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tales from the I-405 ETLs: The case of the Aux Lane and the GP Lane.

By Amy Danberg

Express toll lanes on I-405 brought many changes for both the roadway and drivers.  Drivers have noticed some of these changes include repurposing an auxiliary lane in three locations to make them continuous through lanes.

We realize this is creating confusion so that's what we're here to address. This is a question that we've been answering throughout the planning of the I-405 express toll lanes. Did WSDOT take away a general purpose lane to create an express toll lane?

Before we get into the answer, I'd like to define a few key terms.
  • General purpose lane: A general purpose lane is a lane that continues for the length of the highway that everyone can use.
  • Auxiliary lane: An auxiliary lane used for merge and weaving. On I-405 it is an exit only lane that allows drivers to enter and exit the interstate. They don't carry as much traffic as general purpose lanes. We'll call them merge and weave lanes to avoid confusion.
  • Express toll lane: Most of you are experts by now, but just in case  an express toll lane gives drivers the option to travel faster by paying a toll. Transit, vanpools, and carpools meeting the occupancy requirement can use the lane toll-free.
Now back to the question:

Did WSDOT take away a general purpose lane to create an express toll lane?
The number of general purpose lanes has not changed. There were three continuous through lanes before and there remain three continuous lanes after. We repurposed a stretch of the merge and weave lanes in three locations (see map to the right) between NE 85th Street and NE 124th Street, both north and southbound, and northbound SR 520 to NE 70th Street.  We understand that to a lot of you, these lanes seemed like general purpose lanes, and this change has caused some confusion. We took those merge and weave lanes and lengthened them to ensure we maintained three continuous general purpose lanes in both directions throughout the double express toll lane section, for a total of five continuous lanes.

The facts of the 17-mile express toll lane corridor
  • Total of 117 continuous lane miles from Bellevue to Lynnwood before.
  • Added 14 lane miles of new pavement north and south of the merge and weave lanes
  • Repurposed 6 miles of merge and weave lanes
    • NE 85th Street to NE 124th Street (both northbound and southbound)
    • SR 520 to NE 70th Street (northbound only)
  • Total of 137 continuous lane miles from Bellevue to Lynnwood after
This lane diagram shows how the lanes shifted between NE 85th Street and NE 124th Street:

Why did we repurpose the merge and weave lanes?
While these lanes carry traffic in between interchanges, they don't carry as much traffic as general purpose lanes. Our analysis found that building an express toll lane reduced general purpose travel times by 10 minutes where building a new general purpose lane reduced travel times by 5 minutes; see the following graphic from the Transportation Discipline report.

When we built the new lane between NE 85th Street and NE 124th Street, we were also beginning to study the benefits of express toll lanes. Then in 2006, we began the Bellevue to Lynnwood Environmental Assessment which studied the effects of continuing to operate this lane as a regular lane or an express toll lane at a 3+ carpool requirement.

Did WSDOT comply with Federal requirements?
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21) is a funding and authorization bill to govern United States federal surface transportation spending. MAP 21 states that you cannot convert an existing general purpose lane to an express toll lane without a federal toll agreement. For the I-405 express toll lanes, we added new capacity to accommodate a second express toll lane, and reconfigured three stretches of merge and weave lanes on I-405 to operate as one, continuous general purpose lane  maintaining the same number of general purpose lanes. WSDOT sought clarification from the Federal Highway Administration in 2013 on whether a federal toll agreement was needed for the conversion of a weave and merge lane. FHWA does not consider merge and weave lanes to be general purpose lanes and responded that no toll agreement was necessary, therefore a memorandum of understanding was executed instead.

What outreach was conducted to communicate the repurposing of the merge and weave lanes?
Starting in 2006, we had a specific public process for the Bellevue to Lynnwood express toll lanes project. We held three public meetings for the environmental assessment, which included a public hearing in May 2011. Throughout the project planning we've provided over 200 briefings or presentations to community groups, neighborhoods, planning organizations, elected officials, and agencies.  We've also hosted eight additional public open houses. The results of the project planning work were an environmental assessment that found no significant impacts.  The environmental document that was publicly reviewed and commented on included the following alternatives:

What have we seen in those areas where the merge and weave lanes were repurposed?
Since express toll lanes opened, for the whole corridor we've seen that travel times have either improved or remained the same. At the same time, we've seen shifts on the timing and location of congestion points. While we're seeing better performance overall, this helps explains why some drivers making shorter trips may be experiencing slower commutes. Some of the areas we're seeing slowdowns include some of the portions where we've repurposed the merge and weave lanes including the northbound I-405 around the SR 520 merge area. Given the larger traffic volumes at SR 520 and other major interchanges, we accommodated these volumes by making longer access points into the express toll lanes longer at these locations. We're also seeing slowdowns on southbound I-405 around NE 116th Street.  We're monitoring closely how traffic adjusts and will continue to do so. Where we can make adjustments to improve traffic flow, we will make them. Over time, having five continuous lanes will provide a more efficient system by removing the bottleneck that was created at the end of merge and weave lanes.

As with any adjustment to a highway, it will take time for drivers to feel its full effects. We appreciate the questions we've received about the lanes. I-405 drivers are smart and ask questions—that's a good thing. We want our drivers to be informed and savvy. We're happy to share with you what we found to be the smartest choice and we thank you for your patience as we transition to this new and exciting system. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Traffic recap third week of #405ETL

By Emily Pace

It’s been just over three weeks since the Interstate 405 express toll lanes opened, and we want to take a look back at what we’ve been seeing. As a reminder, it takes time for any big project to get up to full speed and we still expect it will take traffic six months to a year to reach full efficiency as drivers continue to adjust to the I-405 express toll lanes.

Express toll lanes moving more people faster
The express toll lanes have been helping move more people and vehicles quickly through the corridor than the old HOV lanes.

Average speeds and travel times between Bellevue and Lynnwood in the express toll lanes maintained near free flow conditions during peak periods again during weeks 2 and 3. The number of vehicles in the express toll lanes has surpassed the previous HOV levels throughout the two express toll lane sections, and are nearly double the previous HOV volumes during the highest peak hours towards the center of the corridor such as near Kirkland and Kingsgate.

So why did the express toll lanes sometimes look empty? Because the express toll lanes manage traffic more efficiently allowing more vehicles to travel the same distance in less time without getting stuck in traffic.

Changes in the regular lanes
After our first week, we reported that regular lane travel times have improved slightly since the express toll lanes have opened even though more cars are on the road then this time last year. Since then, we’ve continued to see these commute time benefits for those driving the entire distance between Lynnwood and Bellevue, but we’ve also noticed shifts in the times and locations of congestion that help explain why some drivers are telling us that they are seeing congestion where there was none before.

Travel time improvements for the whole 17 mile trip

The 17 mile trip from Lynnwood to Bellevue improved in the regular lanes during the morning commute. The above graph shows that the peak morning commute time was nearly 15 minutes shorter every day last week than the average weekday morning commute in October 2014.

The northbound evening commute gained some improvements in the regular lanes during the evening commute. Commute times showed improvements last Monday, and Friday compared to October 2014, but with increased congestion at times on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. All days were within the 95th percentile of traffic from this month last year.

Shifting congestion points
While we’re seeing less congestion overall, we are seeing some congestion points shift. It will take traffic six months to a year to fully adjust and settle into a new normal. It’s too soon to draw long-term conclusions. We anticipate congestion points will shift and may vary day to day and month to month in the meantime. We’ll continue to share what we see.

Many drivers have commented that traffic seems to have gotten worse for their commute. For example, the new braided ramps connecting I-405 to SR 522 has helped to lessen what had been a major bottleneck on the northbound evening commute, however we've observed that some of this congestion has shifted further north along the highway.

In other words, while the trip in the regular lanes between Bellevue and Bothell has been improved, trips from Bothell to Lynnwood between Beardslee and SR 527 are seeing congestion during the evening commute. This has varied by day, with some days being the normal range we see on I-405 and other days travel times have been slower.

We've also noticed some shifts in the timing of congestion, which we are now observing earlier in the afternoons and more often on weekend commutes. Weekend congestion may be due to fewer drivers being familiar with the express toll lanes than regular commuters.

While this is a win for drivers going the entire distance along the corridor, it certainly explains the frustrations some drivers who drive a shorter portion of I-405 are experiencing.

Regional traffic patterns
We are working closely with cities and jurisdictions to monitor traffic on their roadways and do not have any conclusive data.

Regionally, we’re seeing traffic volumes rise throughout the corridor compared to this time last year, but cars do not seem to be going to I-5, I-90, or SR 522 in greater numbers than I-405. On the contrary, traffic volume has grown by less than 5 percent in all of those roads with the exception of I-405 where volumes have increased by as much as 9 percent.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about changes we made to stretches of I-405 where we converted auxiliary lanes to continuous general purpose lanes. We’ll discuss why we made those changes and how they’re impacting traffic so far.

Giving runoff pollution a…swirly?

By Caitlin Morris
Orange cat: Pollution
Brown cat: WSDOT

Caring for the environment is about to take a page from the old high school prank book. On Friday, Oct. 23, crews will begin installing a new storm water drainage system along northbound I-405 in Bothell that literally swirls debris and pollutants away from water headed to the Sammamish River. Contrary to pranking lore, this time the bully (runoff pollution) is head-first in swirling water.

Here's how it works. Storm water and water runoff is channeled toward an underground vault. First the water full of litter, oil and sediment enters a swirl chamber—not a medieval torture device or a bully's name for a bathroom stall—but rather, a large container that gently swirls the polluted water. With the help of the swirling movement and gravity, highway grit sinks to the bottom of the chamber and the floating pollutants (think leaves and trash) rise to the top.

The water is then channeled through a layered labyrinth-like system of walls that first block the heavy debris below, allowing the water to flow upward to another chamber. The water is then directed below, blocking the floating debris above. A little confusing? See the diagram below. The company that produces the 19' by 13' vault also made an animated video that demonstrates the water filtration process.

The Vortechs® vault uses a swirling chamber to efficiently clean storm water.

Closure today; swirly tomorrow
In order to install the new drainage vault, we need to close the new braided ramps that lead to SR 522 (in both directions) coming from northbound I-405 and NE 160th Street in Bothell. The ramps will close at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23 and will be open to traffic at noon on Sunday, Oct. 25. So plan ahead if you're headed to the Pygmy Goat Show at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, Woodinville for a winetasting or the Haunted Trails in Kenmore. A detour will be in place, but anticipate waiting a little longer to get to your destination.

Even though the Vortechs® vault will be completely underground, when you cruise to northbound I-405 or SR 522 on the Bothell Braids on a rainy day, you can rest assured that we and the vault are protecting the Sammamish River one swirly at a time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Plan now for a busy weekend of roadwork

By Mike Allende

It’s a busy time of year with Halloween approaching, the holidays closing in fast and lots to do all around the region. More and more inclement weather is also on the way and our maintenance and construction crews are working fast to get as much done as possible before rain and cold makes work more difficult.

That’s going to make for some busy weekends, and one of those is right in front of us.

Between Friday, Oct. 23 and Monday, Oct. 26, significant work on eastbound I-90 across Lake Washington, I-405 in Kirkland/Bothell, the SR 513/Montlake Bridge and SR 520 near Montlake and in Redmond means drivers will have to plan ahead and be aware of closures to avoid as many delays as possible.

What’s closed: Eastbound I-90 reduced to one lane near Rainier Avenue South then routed into the express lanes.
When: 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
Why: Work continues on the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV project. After this, there are three more weekend-long closures scheduled in 2015. Much of the work is happening inside the Mount Baker and Mercer Island tunnels as workers continue to prepare the roadway for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail extension connecting Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake.

Workers make electrical upgrades inside the I-90 Mercer Island
Tunnel during a recent weekend closure.
What’s closed: The northbound I-405 on-ramps at NE 160th Street and the northbound I-405 ramps to eastbound and westbound SR 522.
When: 10 p.m. Friday to noon Sunday.
Why: One of the final pieces of the I-405 NE 6th Street to I-5 Widening and Express Toll Lanes project will be put in place near northbound I-405 in the Kirkland/Bothell area. During the closure, contractor crews will install a new 19 feet by 13 feet underground storm water drainage vault that will help prevent polluted water from the highway and nearby hills from entering the Sammamish River.

The new I-405 braided ramps at SR 522 will be closed this
weekend for installation of a new storm water drainage vault.
SR 513/Montlake Bridge
What’s closed: Both directions of the SR 513 Montlake Bridge, the westbound SR 520 ramp to Montlake Boulevard and one lane of the eastbound SR 520 ramp to Montlake Boulevard.
When: 5 a.m. Saturday to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Why: Our bridge maintenance crews will replace sections of the aging Montlake Bridge grid deck. Bicyclists and pedestrians will have access across the west side of the bridge but marine traffic will be limited. The bridge deck is reaching the end of its life span and replacing it will cut down on maintenance costs and traffic delays due to maintenance closures.

To get around the closure, drivers from the north can access the Montlake neighborhood from the University Bridge, the eastbound SR 520 ramp to Montlake or the Roanoke Street exit from I-5. If you’re coming from the Eastside, get to Montlake by using the westbound SR 520 ramp to Lake Washington Boulevard.

If you’re a boater, you’ll be restricted to south single leaf openings from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and have to provide at least one-hour notice.

This weekend the Montlake Bridge will be closed in both directions
while WSDOT replaces sections of the aging grid deck.
SR 520 Seattle
What’s closed: There will be intermittent single-lane closures in both directions of Montlake Boulevard East from East Roanoke Street to East Hamlin Street. A single westbound lane on East Lake Washington Boulevard between 24th Avenue East and Montlake Boulevard will also be closed.
When: 5 a.m. Saturday to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Why: Contractor crews working on the SR 520 West Approach Bridge project will energize a new traffic signal and demolish an old signal at the intersection of Montlake Boulevard and East Lake Washington Boulevard.

SR 520 Redmond
What’s closed: Two right lanes of westbound SR 520 at NE 51st Street and the westbound SR 520 off-ramp to NE 51st and NE 40th streets.
When: 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
Why: Contractor crews will begin work on a project to split the westbound SR 520 ramp to NE 51st/NE 40th streets into two separate exits, including installing safety barriers, lighting, lane striping and signs.

Special Events
It’ll be a busy weekend at CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Home Show will be going on at the Event Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Friday through Sunday, and the Seattle Sounders have a huge game at 4 p.m. Sunday against Real Salt Lake. If your travels take you near the stadiums, be sure to plan for extra time and lots of congestion and consider alternate routes like SR 99, 509 or 599. Sound Transit is also running special Sounder service to and from the Sounders match.

Plan ahead
With all of this work, drivers are encouraged to plan ahead, consider alternate routes if possible, travel earlier in the day or later at night and stay plugged in to traffic conditions including checking our Seattle Traffic page, following us on Twitter and by calling our 511 information phone line.

Monday, October 19, 2015

When sharing can be a problem

By Justin Fujioka

Growing up, we’ve always been taught to share. Sharing is a vital life skill. But in the case of traffic infrastructure, sharing isn’t always a good thing – especially when two high-volume surface streets share a single off-ramp.

After years of comments and suggestions from the public to improve traffic flow on westbound SR 520 in Redmond, a relatively inexpensive ($350,000) and quick fix is about to get underway. We received a lot of input, mainly through email, regarding the congested single-lane off-ramp to both Northeast 51st and Northeast 40th streets.

Here’s the problem: The off-ramp was designed about 25 years ago, before anyone had any clue about the exponential growth at the nearby Microsoft campus. In the morning, thousands of vehicles squeeze into one lane for two heavily used exits, creating a half-mile backup all the way to the merge area at the West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE on-ramp. Given the demand, a two-lane exit seemed like a way to help ease the congestion.

We received a wide array of ideas from the public and the one that stood out most to our engineers was to split the common exit to Northeast 51st and Northeast 40th streets into two separate off-ramps. Instead of physically widening the off-ramp and collector-distributor to two lanes, we settled on this more innovative plan to create a new exit a half-mile down the freeway. This will give us a two-lane exit capacity with two sequential off-ramps instead of one big one.

We decided on this solution mainly for logistics and cost-savings. You see, the mainline and collector-distributor have matching cross slopes and are separated by free-standing barriers. This means we can literally pick up a few barriers and move them to create a new exit. Creating one large two-lane off-ramp would have required building a new roadbed and drainage structures – costly steps we can skip!

Barriers will have to be placed just past the existing exit to Northeast 51st and Northeast 40th streets to close off the collector-distributor, creating an off-ramp for traffic going to Northeast 51st Street only. In addition, about 800 feet of barrier under the Northeast 51st Street overpass will be removed to create a new Northeast 40th Street exit from the mainline. A new gore point with an impact attenuator will be put in, along with new lighting, lane striping and overhead signs.

Drivers should plan ahead for lane and ramp closures, primarily in late October and early November. Contractor crews are scheduled to return to the area in January to complete the project. Most of the work is not expected to be louder than existing overnight background noise from SR 520.

Closure details:

  • Friday, Oct. 23, to the morning of Monday, Oct. 26 - Two right lanes of westbound SR 520 at Northeast 51st Street will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. The westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Northeast 51st Street/Northeast 40th Street will also be closed. A signed detour will be in place. This work is weather dependent.
  • Monday, Oct. 26, to Friday, Oct. 30 - The right lane of westbound SR 520 at Northeast 51st Street will be closed from 5 a.m. Monday to 10 p.m. Friday.
  • Friday, Oct. 30, to the morning of Monday, Nov. 2 - Two right lanes of westbound SR 520 at Northeast 51st Street will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. The westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Northeast 51st Street/Northeast 40th Street will also be closed. A signed detour will be in place. This work is weather dependent.

After this first round of closures, drivers will no longer share a single ramp to Northeast 51st and Northeast 40th streets. But that doesn’t mean they have to stop sharing just about everything else in life.

Friday, October 16, 2015

What has two wheels and pays no tolls on #405ETL?

By Ethan Bergerson

Join us for a live chat on this subject on Facebook and Twitter, Monday, Oct 19 at noon.

Motorcycles travel free on I-405 express toll lanes with a Good To Go! motorcycle pass, and if you ride I-405 you can get a free motorcycle pass. We’ve given away about 10,000 free motorcycle passes, which combined with the 10,000 motorcycle passes already on the road means a lot of bikes should have been good to go. But, now that the first toll bills have started to arrive in the mail, we are starting to hear from motorcyclists that some passes are not working and some are receiving charges even though they have a motorcycle pass.

What you need to do?
In order to travel free, motorcycles must have a properly installed motorcycle pass.

If your pass is installed correctly, and your statement shows a toll for riding your bike on I-405 with a motorcycle pass, we will refund the charges.

If your online statement shows a toll and 25 cent photo toll fee, it means your motorcycle pass wasn’t read by the toll equipment.  You may need to visit a customer service center so that we can test your pass and replace it if it doesn’t work or is incompatible with your motorcycle. Be sure to check to see if your pass is installed correctly and read below to see some examples of installed passes that are not reading.

If you have a Good To Go! account, you can check to see if you were  charged for your trip by logging into your Good To Go! account online.
  • Newer motorcycle passes should not show any record of I-405 express toll lane trips online.
  • Motorcycle passes purchased before March 2015 can check for toll credits online. These passes will show a toll and a credit for the same amount about 5 days after your trip. Your charges and credits will both appear in the "account history" page about 5 days after your trip, but may not both be visible on the "my account" page.
Older passes should check their account history online 5 days
after travel for credits for I-405 travel.
If you have a motorcycle pass and it’s not registered to a Good To Go! account, you should not receive a toll bill. If you do receive a bill in the mail, do not ignore it. Please contact us and let us know so that we can work to resolve this issue.   

Why  is my motorcycle pass being charged a toll on I-405 express toll lanes?
Up to 300 transactions with older passes were improperly tolled. We fixed this error last week and, going forward, these customers will see a charge and a credit back on their Good To Go! statement. We are crediting this group of riders for any transactions that occurred prior to the fix.

We’ve also been hearing from riders whose pass isn’t working due to installation issues or interference from the bike itself. Make sure that your pass is installed correctly and be gentle when installing to avoid damaging the pass. Check out the examples of problems we’ve run into to see if any of these issues apply to you.  If you find that your pass isn’t working, you may need to visit a customer service center so that we can test your pass and get you a new one it if it is not working or incompatible with your motorcycle. If you see any of these installation errors, we will replace your pass.

Installation problem examples:

Vertical installation

Passes should be installed horizontally. Installing the pass vertically can reduce the range and accuracy of the built in antenna.

Angled headlamps

Bending the pass can cause the antenna to malfunction. If your bike has a sharp angled headlamp, we suggest mounting the pass on a flat surface on either side of the curve.

Not a pass at all

Make sure that you installed the motorcycle pass, and not the barcode that came in the packaging.

Mystery problems

We’ve also experienced some passes failing even when there doesn’t seem to be any installation problem at all. The passes are fragile, so maybe they’re just stretched a bit too thin. Whatever it is, if you’re having problems please let us know and we’ll work with you to get it fixed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

First bills are in the mail: #405ETL

By Ethan Bergerson

If you've used the I-405 express toll lanes and don't have a Good To Go! account, you may have already received a toll bill in the mail. If not, you should see one soon. You'll see that each toll transaction has an added $2 charge for Pay By Mail.
Here's a few helpful tips for how to handle your bill:

You can save money by opening a Good To Go! account
  • It's not too late to open a Good To Go! account. You can save $1.75 per toll by calling customer service at 1-866-936-8246, opening a Good To Go! and asking them to post the tolls to your account via Pay By Plate.
  • You'll need to call customer service to do this because you can't do this online.
How do I read my toll bill?
Your toll bill will show the toll point at which you exited the express toll lanes. These are a little different than the access points. The toll points are where the toll equipment is located above the roadway. The images below show a sample toll bill and a map of each toll point northbound and southbound.

Here is an example of how to decode this trip on your bill: 405LB-SB04-01.
  • 405LB Traveling southbound on I-405 between Lynnwood and Bellevue
  • SB04 The last toll point where your vehicle was seen in express toll lanes before exiting, which in the example was the access point just south of NE 160th St.
  • 01 The lane you were traveling in. If you were in the two-lane section it will be either 01-02.
If you have any questions about the new I-405 express toll lanes bills, contact us. It's part of the learning curve we all have with these big changes.

Carpooling and didn't know you needed a Flex Pass?
If you didn't know the new rules for carpoolers, you can call customer service and we'll waive your first Pay By Mail toll bill.
To avoid getting charged as a carpool in future, you'll need to get a Good To Go! account with a Flex Pass set to HOV mode and the right number of occupants.
Reminder: If you carpool at least once a week on I-405, you can get a Flex Pass for free.

Reminder: Billing timeline
Due dates are clearly listed on each bill. In general, if you don't pay your toll bill within 15 days, you should receive a second toll bill with a $5 reprocessing fee. If you don't pay your toll within 80 days a notice of civil penalty (NOCP) will be assessed in the amount of $40 for each unpaid toll.
If you haven't heard, customers with NOCPs can have their penalties waived one-time if they agree to pay outstanding tolls.

I have a Good To Go! account – when will I see my charges?

Carpoolers traveling toll-free with a Good To Go! Flex Pass in HOV mode will not see any trip information on their Good To Go! account. Drivers paying a toll to use the express toll lanes, should expect it will take up to five days before the toll is deducted from their Good To Go! account.

Let us know if you have a concern about your bill
We have been working hard to prevent billing problems, but if you have any questions or concerns about your bill please let us know right away. Remember, if you have a Good To Go! account and receive a bill in the mail, it means that there is an issue with your account and you should contact us immediately so that we can fix it and prevent problems in the future (pdf 159 kb).

Double check for double Charges
Some bills may contain double charges for a single trip, so double check your bill and let us know if you see a mistake. There has been a lot of confusion about this issue, so let's set the record straight.
  • This issue affects less than one percent of all I-405 express toll lane transactions. Only 140 bills were sent out with this error.
  • No one will be charged and we will contact these customers to remove the duplicate charge. We have already taken steps to correct most of these mistakes and caught over 3000 mistakes before bills were sent out.
  • Billing issue is a top priority for us, and we are taking steps to fix these errors immediately. Reports that it would take us up to a year to correct the mistake are completely unfounded.
If you were billed for driving a motorcycle with a motorcycle pass on I-405, contact customer service to get help troubleshoot the issue.
  • Make sure your motorcycle pass is mounted horizontally on your headlamp (pdf 161 kb). To prevent charges from reoccurring you may need to visit a customer service center so that we can test your pass and replace it if it defective or incompatible with your motorcycle.
  • If have a Good To Go! account, you can check for erroneous charges online. Newer motorcycle passes should not show any record of I-405 express toll lane trips online. Older motorcycle passes will show a toll and a credit (note that your credits may only be visible in the "account history" page, not the "my account" page.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This is only a drill – for now

By Barbara LaBoe

Recently, we – along with volunteers from the commercial trucking community – engaged in a little make believe to help with our real-world results.

Let’s pretend, we said, that Interstate 5 was shut down and wouldn’t open up for several days. How would we get needed goods – including emergency supplies – through to residents?

We might have a detour road identified, but often those smaller or rural roads can’t handle lots of heavy commercial trucks like an interstate can. In that case, we activate our Commercial Vehicle Pass System. The pass system allows truck drivers to sign up for access to restricted detours and, if needed, prioritizes which trucks get through based on the importance of their cargo. (State officials set the priorities based on the particular emergency; with “A” being the most urgently needed items).

Our Commercial Vehicle Pass System gives drivers set times and detours
to take when major highways are blocked – helping avoid uncertainty
and long backups like this one in early 2008 on Interstate 90.
Working with trucking company volunteers, we asked truck drivers to go on-line all at the same time during the drill and try to sign up for a pass with a specific three-hour access window. (Passes must be displayed to law enforcement before a truck can enter a restricted detour).

During emergencies, the passes tell drivers when and where
they can detour around major highway closures.
The pass system was developed a few years ago and is being regularly revised to make it easier to use. New this year, for example, is a feature that allows truck drivers to display the pass on their cell phone screen instead of having to print it before heading out.

Along with revisions comes annual reviews and testing of the system: Because a disaster response plan is only helpful if we can actually implement it. This drill’s goal was to test the system in real-time, to ensure it could be used quickly and efficiently and to see how well we can fix any problems on the fly. The results? We’re still analyzing surveys the volunteers took after the drill, but we already know we want to do more outreach with trucking companies about how the system works and the new mobile device options.

Our staff worked the computers and phones in our Emergency
Operations Center during the drill.
The CVPS drill is just one of many that we conduct throughout the year to keep our own skills sharp, ensure our partners know how to work with us and to spot any problem areas now, while there’s still time to fix them. Some drills are internal while others draw on volunteers and partners for help. All are designed to help us improve and lessen the stress and disruption of actual emergencies.

Of course, there’s no way to ever be completely prepared for every disaster. And we know there will be crisis-specific challenges in each new situation. But by holding drills now, we believe we’ll be better able to safely get goods and people back on the road as soon as possible.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bi-state travel time signs connect Vancouver and Portland

By Tamara Greenwell and Bart Treece

Update for Oct. 23: Bi-state travel time signs have been displaying travel time for just over a week. Unfortunately, we've discovered some intermittent differences with the times posted and actual drive times on the signs on both sides of the river. Our techs are working on it, we want to make sure you have the most accurate information to make travel decisions.

The shortest distance between "Point A" and "Point B" may be a straight line, but if that straight line is backed up and congested, a different route might save you time. For example, you could take southbound I-5 from north Clark County to the Rose Quarter in Portland, or take I-205 to I-84 to the Rose Quarter. The direct I-5 route is shorter in distance, but it could take longer if a stalled car or a crash blocks a lane of traffic. Diverting could put more miles on your car but shave minutes off your trip.

But how do you know which way to go? Well, we want to help you make that decision. New travel time signs in both Washington and Oregon -- designed to help save time crossing the Columbia River -- will go live Thursday, Oct. 15.

The signs, similar to ones used in Tacoma and Seattle, are strategically installed at key driver decision points on both sides of the river and will show comparable travel times for common destinations. These times will change in response to real-time traffic conditions. You'll know when there's a stall or crash on a specific metro area highway, because travel times on that route will increase.
Here are some examples of the travel time signs.

How does it work?
Sensors embedded in the roadway measure the speed of vehicles passing through that particular location. It's a common tool for traffic data collection, but here's the tricky part: both Oregon and Washington have different data collection systems that need to connect in order provide reliable cross-state travel information. The solution? Updating the software applications so both state systems could use each other's data.

Travel times signs on SR 14 near 160th Street in Vancouver.

Now that traffic information is flowing across the Columbia River, the data is tested to ensure accuracy. Our engineers hit the road and log travel times to see how they measure up with the roadway sensors.

Travel times in more places
In addition to the new travel time signs, you'll be able to check the drive times on the WSDOT Southwest Region website. This way, you can plan your route ahead of time before hitting the road.

As regional traffic patterns change, so will average travel times. We'll drive the routes regularly to ensure the information is up to date and reliable.

Friday, October 9, 2015

What's the bus doing in the shoulder on I-405?

By Theresa Greco

In 2009, we started working with Sound Transit, King County Metro, and Community Transit on the details of the I-405 eastside express toll lanes. The transit agencies developed 14 recommendations to improve their operations in this corridor.  The improvements included shoulder transit lanes at ramps and along segments of I-405.  Their recommended improvements were submitted in fall 2009 to a group of east side mayors, county leadership and transit executives formed to advise WSDOT on eastside express toll lanes.

Safety is everyone’s top priority. Shoulders on I-405 southbound from SR 527 to NE 195th Street and SR 522 to NE 160th Street were widened by 3 feet to a total of 13 feet to accommodate our transit agencies’ buses. Buses using the shoulder will travel at 35 mph during the weekday morning commute between 6:00 am and 9:00 am and only when the regular traffic is running substantially slower than normal. The buses will flash their hazard lights when driving on the shoulder to alert other drivers. If there is a vehicle blocking the shoulder, they will move into the regular lanes.

Community Transit has been training their drivers and they are now prepared to use the bus shoulder lanes. This special access has been long in the planning will improve transit trips that start in several north end locations. The shoulder lanes will reduce the weave for buses which, before express tolling started, had to merge across all of the regular lanes to access the HOV lanes and then merge back to get to local park and rides in Bothell. This change helps drivers in all lanes by reducing congestion from merging buses.

Travel in the shoulder is for public transportation agency buses only and is allowed under several state provisions of law (RCW 46.61.165, 46.61.428 and 47.52.025.)

Still have more questions? Head on over to our Facebook page or @goodtogowsdot on Twitter for a live chat from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, October 9.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recap: What we saw with the first week of #405ETL

By Emily Pace

With our first week of I-405 express toll lanes in the books, we wanted to provide a re-cap of what we saw with traffic. It's important to keep in mind that this is just the first week in a settling in period that's expected to take up to 6 months to a year.

Looking at regional traffic as a whole, we're not seeing a major shift in drivers avoiding I-405 due to express toll lanes. What we have seen is that since October 2014, traffic volumes on major highway routes (I-405, I-5, I-90, SR 520 and SR 522) increased by up to 10 percent as the economy rebounded and more drivers are on the road. This nifty graph shows the regional increase we've seen on all highways.
View Acrobat .pdf version of this graph

Even though we're seeing higher traffic volumes on I-405, last week the average travel times were within the range of what we have seen on I-405 in the last year. Jumping back to last year on I-405, the average commute was 45 to 60 minutes, and every few weeks drivers had to plan up to 75 minutes to make it to their destination on time.

Now fast forward to last week. Let's walk through what these graphs are telling us:
  • Last Monday, Oct. 28, the commute was average. Wednesday, Sept. 30 through Friday, Oct. 2, was better than average.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 29, the morning was a tough commute throughout the region, in large part due to the motorcycle accident on I-5. However, even on Tuesday the travel times on I-405 in the regular lanes were within the normal range looking back to what we've seen in the last year.
  • We're seeing higher traffic volumes on I-405, but travel times are around average or better.
View Acrobat .pdf version of this graph
View Acrobat .pdf version of this graph

More drivers are using the express toll lanes
Over the course of last week, express toll lane volumes increased 15 to 20 percent:
  • Thursday, Oct. 1, Peak AM Commute: On southbound I-405, there were 14,000 vehicles in the express toll lanes.
  • Thursday, Oct. 1, Peak PM Commute: On northbound I-405 there were 12,000 vehicles in the express toll lanes.
  • This was an increase of about 3,000 vehicles using the express toll lanes in each direction since Monday, Sept. 28
For the typical toll of $1.50, express toll lanes are saving southbound morning peak commute drivers 25 minutes. For the northbound afternoon commute, express toll lane drivers are paying an average of $1 to save 15 minutes.

The two express toll lanes look empty.
The double express toll lanes between Bellevue and Bothell are moving more vehicles than the HOV lane did before. Before the express toll lanes, typical HOV lane volumes were about 1,600 an hour. Last week the double express toll lanes were carrying about 2,400 vehicles an hour.

What about other routes?
Even though we don't yet have traffic volume data on other local routes, we're working with cities and jurisdictions to monitor traffic on their roadways.

Wrapping up
I-405 express toll lanes have been a big change for drivers; however, early numbers from the first week indicate that the express toll lanes are doing what they were designed to do: giving drivers an option for a reliable trip.

We understand some drivers' particular commute may have been longer. Commuters are adjusting their routine and are starting to get familiar with the express toll lanes.

Again, this is just the first week. Each day will be different and we'll continue to monitor closely.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Full weekend I-90 closures back after summer break

By Mike Allende

**UPDATE Thursday, Oct. 8, 10:01 a.m.**: Due to expected rainy weather, the planned early closure of the I-90 express lanes for re-striping is postponed. The rest of the work will proceed as scheduled.

Remember back in May, when we said that our full directional detours of Interstate 90 across Lake Washington were going on summer vacation until October? Well. …take a look at the calendar.

That’s right, October is here and that means you’ll be seeing up to two of those I-90 weekend detours per month until May 2016, when we take another summer break. The first will be Oct. 9-12, when all westbound lanes will be detoured into the express lanes from 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

This is part of our I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project. Other full weekend detours include eastbound on Oct. 23-26, Nov. 13-15, and Dec. 11-14 and westbound Dec. 4-7. The project is scheduled to be complete in mid-2017.

While we didn’t have any directional closures over the summer – we paused because of the large number of special events that time of year – our crews continued to work with nighttime closures to keep the project moving along.

Listening to you and making adjustments
As with our earlier closures, much of the work we’re doing is inside the two I-90 tunnels so drivers may not see a lot happening. Closing mainline I-90 allows our crews to work uninterrupted for the entire weekend, which will help us complete this work much faster than if we just did nighttime closures.

We learned some lessons from our first batch of these closures that we believe will help with traffic flow. For example, while Mercer Island traffic will continue to exit westbound I-90 at East Mercer Way, they will now have two main options at the top of the ramp: either turn left onto East Mercer Way or continue straight and re-enter westbound I-90 and exit at Island Crest Way.

For Seattle traffic, there will be two lanes exiting the express lanes at Rainier Avenue. To get the two westbound lanes out of the express lanes, there’s a bit of work that needs to be done including removing approximately 70 feet of barrier and restriping the express lanes exit to the outer roadway. In order to do this work, our contractor crews will close the express lanes at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9. They’ll also close the left lane on the westbound mainline near Rainier Avenue at 8:30 p.m. to restripe the transition out of the express lanes with the goal of having westbound I-90 down to one lane and into the express lanes by 11 p.m. on Friday.

Closing I-90 for a weekend allows workers and heavy machinery
to work unimpeded, helping advance the project’s timeline.

Early Monday morning at about 1:30 a.m. crews will begin reopening the westbound mainline at East Mercer Way while closing the express lanes to put back the barrier they removed earlier and restripe the express lanes. All mainline lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. and the express lanes will be open westbound by 6 a.m.

Adding new HOV lanes and getting I-90 ready for light rail
All this work will add capacity to I-90, including a new HOV lane in both directions between Seattle and Bellevue with direct access ramps for transit, carpools and vanpools. We’re also upgrading the safety and operations systems in the Mount Baker and Mercer Island tunnels including upgrading the fire suppression system, lighting and cameras, and modifying the tunnel ventilation systems. These upgrades are preparing the express lanes for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail extension from Seattle to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. The 14-mile project is set to open in 2023 and includes 10 new stations.

Workers are upgrading the lighting and fire suppression systems,
among other things, during our I-90 full weekend closures.

The work we’re doing this weekend will result in some significant congestion on I-90 and surrounding routes, so be sure to plan ahead. You can check our Seattle Area Traffic page for real-time traffic info, cameras and travel times. Our Northwest Construction page will list upcoming closures and Twitter users can follow @wsdot_traffic for information on traffic and closures.

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.