Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The I-405 express toll lanes turn two

By Emily Pace

It's hard to believe the I-405 express toll lanes have already been in operation for two years. Twenty-five million trips have been taken on the express toll lanes since they opened to the public on Sept. 27, 2015. Drivers who decide to skip traffic and use the express toll lanes pay an average toll of about $3 and save 11-14 minutes, getting a faster, more predictable trip.

Benefits despite increased volume
People traveling on I-405 like having a choice to get out of traffic faster. Before the express toll lanes, the HOV lanes were often as congested as the regular lanes, offering little benefit to carpools and transit. Data shows that the express toll lanes maintain faster speeds during peak times and move more vehicles than the old HOV lanes. For example, a trip between downtown Bellevue and Lynnwood that should have taken 16 minutes in the old HOV lanes used to take 27 minutes on average and 39 minutes on an especially bad day. Today, the same trip takes 16-19 minutes on average. That's a significant time savings for people who drive the corridor.

We're seeing these positive trends despite the huge growth our region continues to experience. These days, a new driver moves here every 6 minutes! I-405 carries almost 20,000 more vehicles a day in some places than two years ago. Lined up bumper-to-bumper, those cars would stretch 65 miles from Bellevue to Olympia. Luckily, the express toll lanes were designed to move higher volumes than regular lanes and keep traffic flowing when congestion is at its worst. For people driving in the regular lanes, their average speeds have either remained the same or improved.

Investing in the corridor
We recognize that I-405 still has significant traffic congestion, and we have many projects to build through our long-term Master Plan. Every time a driver pays a toll, they are investing in improving the corridor. More than 17 million express toll lane trips were taken by toll-paying vehicles, generating $38.6 million in revenue. We need about a third of the revenue for operations and maintenance. The remaining two-thirds, about $25 million, must be used to fund improvements to I-405.

In April, we used some of this money to add a new peak-use shoulder lane from Canyon Park to Lynnwood to speed things up during the afternoon rush hour.

We are committed to making the lanes even more efficient to help manage congestion as our region grows. As of the end of June, which was our last official reporting period, when looking at the average in both directions, the express toll lanes offered speeds of 45 mph or faster 81 percent of the peak period. That's significantly higher than the performance of the previous HOV lanes which moved cars at that speed only 62 percent of the time. While we're not yet meeting the goal the Legislature set of 45 mph or more 90 percent of the time during peak periods, the lanes' northbound performance has improved a great deal since the opening of the peak-use shoulder lane. During the four months between the opening of the peak-use shoulder lane and the end of August, the express toll lanes met the 45 mph standard 86 percent of the time. Overall, most of the corridor is meeting the Legislature's goal, with the exception being the southbound single-lane section between I-5 and SR 522, due to the heavy demand from drivers in the morning commute, which is pulling down the overall average.

We are continuing to look at new ways to lessen the amount of time people spend in traffic on the corridor. The Legislature provided additional funding to continue studying how we can add capacity in the northern portion of the corridor, and we are exploring how we can provide improvements in that area. We're also moving forward with much-needed improvements between Bellevue and Renton, which were funded by the Legislature in the 2015 Connecting Washington package.

4 comments:

Jeff Lykken said...

The extortion toll lanes have been one of the biggest mistakes in transportation history and one of the biggest ripoffs in recent memory. The extortion toll were forced onto the public with deception, propaganda and lies. The toll lanes have made congestion much much worse and and everyone knows this. It is awful that the Texas company where some of the tolls go discourages adding general purpose lanes, that way the congestion continues and and the toll revenue comes in. What a joke! The truth is 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. It is also shameful that our own representative Judy Clibborn continues to to block hearings to remove the failed extortion tolls as she gets kickbacks from from the Texas company. Our representatives have a responsibility to do the right thing need to listen to the public who they are supposed to represent and suspend the failed toll lanes. We need the general purpose lanes we were originally promised, Not toll lanes!!!!!

Jeff Lykken said...

Leaving I405 from Renton to Bellevue with only 2 general purpose lanes in each direction instead of the general purpose lanes lanes we were originally promised is wrong and just plain Stupid! Only adding an extortion lane instead of the general purpose lanes with will create a traffic catastrophe. WSDOT basically does not care about the general public as the leave on of the worst stretches of freeways in the US with only 2 general purpose lanes lanes each way, a joke. We are going to fight WSDOT who is one of the most corrupt agencies in the state! We are going to win this battle, and the new lane constructed in 2019 is going to be a general purpose lane!

Jeff Gray said...

So, despite not hitting the metrics dictated BY LAW that would justify keeping this abomination in place, you are already looking to expand this steaming pile!!??? Do you think W$DOT is above the law? As I've pointed out before, why is there no mention of: 1)The massive increase in commute time in the GPLs? 2) The massive increase in accidents within the Extortion Lane Zone? 3) The complete disregard of the double white line? 4) WSPs statement that the system is unenforceable? 5) The blatant cheating of the 3+ requirement in the Extortion Lane? 6) The MASSIVE backups that the NB shoulder lane has caused? The I-5 ramp now backs up on to 405 for MILES each and EVERY day since that was implemented causing a seriously dangerous situation.

W$DOT only cares about one thing, and on thing only: MONEY. Our personal safety and our time mean NOTHING. W$DOT continues to be the single most corrupt and inept entity in the entire state.

I know that, as usual, this will garner no response. And people should also know that I had to threaten to contact my state rep previously for W$DOT to even publish negative comments. Prior to that, they were purging any and all comments that had anything negative to say. Par for the course for these crooks.

Crystal Y said...

Right on Jeff and Jeff. I commute between the Mill Creek area and Bellevue on I405 and it’s been more of a mess in the GP lanes since the toll lanes were implemented. I take my daughter to school on my way to work so don’t meet the 3 minimum requirement to take the HOV lane without cost as I used to. Now I pay every day coming and going because traffic is terrible in the GP lanes now. There used to be times in the summer when you could sail through to Bellevue at 6:30am in the GP lanes. I have not seen that once since the toll lanes were implemented. They have also created bottlenecks that never existed previously- especially northbound I405 getting on at Beardsley. You cannot enter the toll lanes for a mile or so and it makes the 522 interchange a nightmare. Same going south. I didn’t get a pay raise to accommodate the extra cost just to get home at a decent hour or get to work within an hour. I notice more folks commuting earlier too. Now it’s bad early too. I don’t think these issues are acknowledged and that is really sad.

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