Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New year, new lane: Work under way at north end of I-405

By Craig Smiley

Heads up, northbound Interstate 405 travelers: In Snohomish County, work has begun on a new peak-use shoulder lane in the congested 1.8-mile stretch between State Route 527 and I-5 in Lynnwood. Construction is starting ahead of our original schedule, and the lane is on track to open to traffic this spring.
Overhead signs will tell drivers when the shoulder is open to traffic.

What’s a peak-use shoulder lane?

As the name suggests, drivers and buses will soon be able to use the northbound right shoulder as an additional general-purpose lane during times with the heaviest congestion—in this case, the weekday afternoon commute.

How will lane construction affect my commute?

At first, crews will close only shoulders to complete their work. As the project progresses throughout the next few months, there will also be some nighttime lane closures. Be sure to keep an eye on the I-405 construction closures website to get detailed information about closures as they approach.

The peak-use shoulder lane will run
from SR 527 to I-5.
How will I know when I can use the new lane?

Once this project is complete, new overhead signs will alert drivers when the lane is open with a green arrow and closed with a red “X”, similar to the signs you see today on I-5 near Seattle.

What if there’s an incident?

As with all highway operations, our traffic management center will be actively monitoring the lane. If there is a collision or incident, we will be able to close the lane in order to allow emergency services to respond. There will also be four emergency pullouts in the area of the peak-use shoulder lane.

What’s special about this project?

This is the first dynamically controlled peak-use shoulder lane in the state, as well as the first example of I-405 express toll lane revenue being reinvested in the corridor.

What’s next? 

We recognize that introducing a peak-use shoulder lane between SR 527 and I-5 is one step toward improving congestion in this area. That’s why we’re also looking at more comprehensive, longer-term improvements such as adding new lanes in each direction and rebuilding key interchanges. For now, we’re looking forward to providing new capacity for north end drivers —and on an accelerated schedule.

Stay tuned for a comprehensive look at how to use the peak-use shoulder lane and how we will work with our emergency service partners to operate the lane in the coming months.


Jeff Lykken said...

Once again WSDOT will do and or say anything with there lies and propaganda to desive the public. The truth is adding a shoulder lane is NOT a real improvement, but another way to keep the congestion going. A real improvement would be to add the general purpose lanes we were originally promised in the 2002 master plan. We would all be better off if the extortion toll lanes were suspended ASAP! The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. Harmsworths bill will finally do away with the biggest mistake in transportation history, and get traffic moving again.

WSDOT said...

We are not finished making improvements in this area of I-405. The I-405 Master Plan still envisions one new general purpose lane and one new express toll lane in each direction between SR 522 and I-5, but these projects are not currently funded. At the Legislature's request, WSDOT has also started evaluating ways to prioritize additional north end improvements. For now, as the blog notes, this northbound peak-use shoulder lane is the quickest way within existing funding to provide more space for general purpose traffic at the most congested times.

Vince R said...


So, as I understand it, WSDOT initially claimed that there was no problem. Now we get to wait about a year to open the existing shoulder to traffic. Wow... just wow.

The ETL project still has a lot of things that cause me concern, not the least of which is that WSDOT claims the ETL is a victory...

1. Travel times increase for me. It doesn't seem to matter when, during rush hour, I travel, it is across the board slower.

2. The real-time information that used to be broadcast about 'congestion' along 405 worked before the ETL was turned on and my GPS would route accordingly. It is no longer accurate and if I use it during rush hour, I ALWAYS end up in a traffic jam.

If that data is incorrect, and it is the based on the data used to claim success, then WSDOT is wrong. If it is not the same data, when the heck will someone in WSDOT fix it. This issue has been happening since day one of the ETL experiment.

3. WSDOT has repeatedly said the ETL was not about money, but it keeps being used as a measure for success and it is something. ETL revenues are up... yipee... success.. 3 times more people are willing to pay to get out of our 'faster, more predictable traffic jams'.

4. The regularly reported WSDOT information posted about travel times is flawed. Blatantly flawed to the point where it appears to be intentional (lies).

More vehicles are moving through the express toll lanes than ever before. AND Travel time savings are up, even in the regular lanes

I have seen posts that say travel time is down. In the same post, just a few lines apart, I have seen ETL usage fees (and congestion in the ETL) has gone up. So I am not a traffic engineer, but something seems fishy in BellevueTown. An increase in ETL usage during peak periods would indicate an increase in congestion and longer travel times. So which of these 'alternative truths' should we believe? They are pretty much opposites after all.

5. Paraphrased - "We didn't anticipate the N405 section would be so bad when we designed the ETL"... really?! Took almost a year to figure that out did it? and its taking a year to do what? Open the existing shoulder to traffic.... really? A year? Woohoo, so after 2ish years, we get to drive on the shoulder... I can't publicly express how I feel about that without getting my post censored.

6. So what about those other problems... ya know.. the 420, 405 interchange... or the 90, 405 interchange... those areas that can often add like 20 to 30 minutes to the average commute ... for some reason the words and feelings of 'Mission Accomplished' come to mind...

7. WSDOT stated that there was no impact on surface roads around the 405 corridor. Again, seems to this daily commuter that this statement just isn't so.

Vince R said...


Here are some things to consider:

* 40 percent of the money raised on I-405 went towards toll collection (Note that this is an average and is almost half of the monies collected)

So almost half of the costs being paid do not benefit our roads

* WSDOT has indicated that this is something they believe: "there is a consensus among economists that congestion pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion."

So lets summarize this one... it means that having congestion and charging those that can afford it, to bypass it, helps reduce traffic jams.

* WSDOT contracted with companies in two states outside of Washington to process the support and tolling.

Prior to them being forced to make non-peak periods free, a very large percentage of the tolls collected (when tolls are $1.00 or less) went to the out-of-state contractors.

Fortunately that was stopped.

However, when the tolls are .75 cents, most of the money you are paying is heading out of the state as it outlined in the contracts. If you look at the flow of cash for our tolls, its only when the price is high that we add revenue to our coffers. So congestion pays WA big...no congestion pays big for those contractors.... everyone wins right?!

* "There is increasingly more demand from drivers than there is capacity in this section, which means higher toll rates for longer periods of time."

* (same post) Provide a faster and more predictable trip.

Talk about contradictions.

Be careful that you understand the WSDOTs statements:
WSDOT will continue to partner with local cities and transit agencies to implement the I-405 Master Plan, a multi-modal and balanced approach to managing congestion.

This doesn't mean your commute times will drop. That is not the stated intention... it is to manage congestion. As we saw in an earlier post, they also believe that making you pay to avoid congestion is the best alternative to improving the flow of traffic.

Just wait until the ETL is extended to 405 south of 90... we can expect MUCH longer drives. Do nothing and that is exactly what you will get... or talk to your representative and let them know how you feel.

Long-range plans include connecting the SR 167 HOT lanes to I-405 Express Toll Lanes for a 40-mile express-trip.

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