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HOV ramp rules, left turn lanes and more in the Chokepoints grab bag

(WSDOT)

We are digging into the Grab Bag today to answer your traffic questions.

We’re going to start with a question from Ricky, who drives State Route 167 daily.

“Chris. Can you tell me if the 167 on-ramp diamond lanes are open lanes during the morning commute? Are they like the toll lanes, which are open to public travel from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.?” He also wonders if solo drivers with Good to Go passes can use those lanes because he sees that a lot.

Answer: The basic rule you have to follow when it comes to HOV freeway on-ramps is they are always active unless there are signs to the contrary. They always require two-plus people in the vehicle, unless a sign says otherwise. They also require two-plus even when the freeway HOV lanes are open to all overnight. 

RELATED: The state’s dilemma of safety versus noise

To complicate matters for drivers on SR 167, solo drivers with Good to Go passes who intend to pay their way into the HOT lanes cannot use the HOV ramps. That pass doesn’t give you the magical ability to drive past all the other drivers. The same goes for I-405 drivers. The toll lanes aren’t on the ramps. They are on the freeway.

The one place where that does not apply is for solo drivers using the direct access HOV ramps once they are in the toll lanes. They can use those ramps, but only when tolling is activated. When tolling is turned off, from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., those direct access ramps always require two-plus passengers.

How long can you drive in a two-way left turn lane?

Tommy, who drives a lot of suburban arterials, wants to know how long you can drive in a two-way left turn lane. He sees a lot of people using that lane to by-pass others waiting for a light.

Answer: Under state law, you can only be in a left turn lane for 300 feet, and they cannot be used for passing. You’re probably not going to be pulled over for this, but you will anger drivers around you. That 300 feet equals about 20 average-size cars.

Where are the ramp meters?

Fritz and Kate want to know why there isn’t a ramp meter from 160th to either I-405 or 522 in Bothell.

Answer: This is a spot I’ve highlighted several times before. This is the intersection where we have seen a lot of drivers by-passing the I-405 backups by getting off at 160th, just to get back on the freeway.

The state installed new signs there stating that move was illegal, and the cut-through traffic has gone down about 50 percent. The state says its research shows adding ramp meters there, at least in the afternoon commute, would help the flow of traffic. That probably won’t happen though because the state is starting the process of redesigning the entire 522/405 interchange.

Construction for that isn’t funded. We’re stuck with this situation for a while.

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