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.
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.