Washington State's First Express Toll Lanes Open

Washington has Express Lanes on I-5 and I-90 and HOT Lanes on SR 167, but the 17 miles of lanes that opened Sunday on I-405 from Bellevue to Lynnwood will be the state's first Express Toll Lanes.

2 minute read

September 30, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Unlike their counterparts in California (e.g., the Bay Area, Orange County) and elsewhere, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) chose to add the word "toll" to describe what are, in fact, toll lanes, making the new lanes easier to distinguish from the I-405 Express Lanes under construction by the Orange County Transportation Agency.

Since Washington already has the I-5 and I-90 Express Lanes, which "assist the flow of traffic during busy travel times" but are not tolled, "toll" became necessary to describe the new I-405 lanes.

The state's existing toll lanes, the SR 167 HOT Lanes, may be one of the few such facilities that actually uses "HOT," meaning high occupancy toll, in its name. WSDOT opted for "express toll" rather than "HOT" because there are a few key differences between the two priced lanes. Also, they "learned from focus groups that the term 'express toll lanes' is more intuitive to drivers," wrote Ethan Bergerson of WSDOT Toll Communications in an email.

One major difference is that if a solo motorist drives in the SR 167 HOT lanes without a transponder, he/she risks a $136 citation, while the solo motorist driving in I-405 Express Toll Lanes  "without a Good To Go! account will be sent a bill in the mail at a higher toll," wrote Bergerson. He explained in a phone call that cameras can capture license plates, making this option possible. 

This became an issue for motorcyclists who were required to purchase Good To Go! passes in order to avoid being charged a toll when using the Express Toll Lane, according to King 5 News.

WSDOT's director of toll operations, Patty Rubstello said the change is largely due to equipment. She said 167 doesn't rely on a photo enforcement system, I-405 does.

Dynamic tolling (allowing rate to change with level of congestion) applies to both SR 167 and I-405 lanes in order to adhere to the "Federal Highway Administration performance goal for HOV lanes is to maintain speeds of 45 mph 90 percent of the time."

Total cost for the 17-mile project, which was widened between Bothell and Kirkland to allow for two lanes in each direction, is $338 million, most of which was paid from state gas taxes and vehicle user fees.

Project Engineering:

$44M

Right of Way:

$14M

Construction:

$280M 

Source: I-405 Project Office

 

Note: This excludes all project engineering, right of way, and construction associated with the Bothell and 116th SPUI construction projects.

Credit: WSDOT Toll Communications

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