Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How your express toll lane dollars are spent

By Ethan Bergerson
New financial numbers for the I-405 express toll lanes show that they have raised $44.5 million dollars in their first two years. As directed by the Legislature, money raised on I-405 is used for only two purposes: to cover operating expenses and, most importantly, to invest in improvements to I-405. Of the total, $28.8 million is being used to relieve congestion and improve travel for the people who use I-405 each day.

Let’s take a look at how that money is being spent and what investments we’re planning for the future. And if you’re interested, you can see the full financial reports here.

Most of the toll money goes to improve I-405
When you pay a toll, you’re probably thinking about how much time you’ll save, not how much money tolls are raising for future highway improvements. Two-thirds of the money from every toll is going to help improve performance on I-405.

In April, we invested $11.5 million to build the new peak-use shoulder lane from Canyon Park to Lynnwood. Toll revenue also paid for other improvements, such as a new merge lane in Bothell, which gave drivers space to merge in and out of the express toll lanes without slowing traffic behind them.

Together, these recent improvements have had a positive effect on the northbound afternoon commute. Traffic is flowing more smoothly across all lanes and toll rates went down. Now more people can get home faster whether or not they choose to pay a toll.

What comes next for I-405?
The remaining money is being kept in a dedicated fund specifically for more I-405 improvements, and the Legislature has asked us to study two future projects.

At the Legislature’s direction, we’ve begun working on some early design concepts to reduce congestion between Bothell and Lynnwood by rebuilding the SR 522 interchange. We are also analyzing construction of a new express toll lane in each direction up to SR 527. Ultimately, the Legislature will decide whether toll money should be used to build this project.

Breaking down the operating costs of the lanes
While two-thirds of the revenue generated by the express toll lanes will be invested back into I-405 improvements, the remaining third covers operating costs. Here is a breakdown of the expenses:
  • Seven percent went to customer service
    Our customer service centers, phone line, and online support are based in Puget Sound and help an average of 15,000 people a day. This work is done by Electronic Transaction Consultants, a private vendor based in Texas which employs 120 people in Puget Sound for Good To Go!
  • Four percent for the toll equipment
    This is the cost to operate and maintain the toll equipment. That includes dozens of high-speed infrared spectrum cameras, laser scanners, and radio frequency identification antennas to recognize vehicles. This work was done by Kapsch, an intelligent transportation system design firm which specializes in tolling.
  • 10 percent paid for administrative costs
    About 50 people work in our offices around King County to oversee statewide tolling operations. We manage toll finances, calibrate the traffic management computer system, plan system improvements, communicate with the public, and manage the customer service and toll equipment vendors. This cost is shared between all toll roads, including I-405.
  • Seven percent helped enforce the rules of the road
    About four percent helped pay for Washington State Patrol’s troopers enforcement of the rules of the express toll lanes. Three percent went to the Office of Administrative Hearings which hears disputes from drivers contesting unpaid tolls.
  • Seven percent covered things like credit card fees, postage, and Good To Go! passes
    These costs are only associated with certain transactions, like buying a new pass or a Pay By Mail fee paid by drivers without a Good to Go! account.

1 comment:

Bruce Peterson said...

So, $15M additional cost to administer the toll lanes. And such items as the shoulder driving at Canyon Park is dangerous as well as absurd. And this is an ADDITIONAL $45M stolen from the taxpayers on top of the additional taxes for stupid projects like Rapid Transit and the trains that few can use to get to work. Much of this money was spent to get tourists from the airport, not to improve the commute. As I recall, we were told many years ago, when I405 was basically two lanes in each direction, that there was no room to expand it. Yet here we are with six or more lanes in each direction in some areas. Two to three of these lanes are toll lanes. Why not open them up to all commuters? And their commute time guarantees are never met. So, basically, this is a scam on the part of the government to APPEAR to be doing something when, if fact, all they are doing is scamming us out of more gas tax money. And, of course we have one of the highest gas taxes in the nation already PLUS the RTA sales tax, plus the RTA vehicle license tax. If taxpayers would wake up and "throw the bums out" of our state Congress, we might get some lower taxes. And 10.4% sales tax is OUTRAGEOUS.

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