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I-405 toll lanes
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What would life be like without the I-405 toll lanes?

(WSDOT image)

We now know that the state Attorney General’s office doesn’t believe the I-405 express toll lanes need to be scrapped, despite not meeting both benchmarks set out by the Legislature. But there is going to be a push in Olympia next month to get rid of them.

RELATED: AG’s office weighs in on I-405 toll lanes and the law

What would life on I-405 really look like if we went back to the old system of general purpose lanes and one HOV lane?

The Washington Department of Transportation has done extensive modeling, and it doesn’t think drivers would like it. I-405 project manager Kim Henry says it would lead to stop-and-go traffic from Lynnwood to Bothell until at least 11 a.m.

“We would get back-ups back before the I-5/405 interchange, back onto I-5,” Henry said. “405 traffic would be clogging up I-5 even worse than it is today with many hours of congestion as a result of that change.”

WSDOT compared I-5 to the two I-405 express toll lanes. I-5 has five lanes just like I-405 south of Bothell; with four general purpose lanes and one HOV lane. I-405 has three general purpose lanes and two express toll lanes. Henry said I-405 considerably out-performs I-5.

“Same total number of lanes, same daily traffic volumes, and yet the peak hours on 405 are performing at a much higher level than the peak hours on I-5 where we are seeing a much higher level of congestion,” he said.

Henry said I-405 is handling more cars per hour in each lane than I-5 in this current configuration too.

“That’s what express toll lanes do,” he said. “They keep the cars moving, and so we get a much higher performance on a lane-by-lane basis.”

Henry believes scrapping the express toll lanes now is a bad idea.

“Going backward with all increases in growth that we’ve had on top of our already congested peak hours would not be the best way to operate the freeway,” he said.

Not to mention all the transportation and transit plans for the Eastside have been based on having an express toll system. All those plans would have to be revised and likely change.

So what’s the plan moving forward? Henry says they are looking to add another express toll lane between Highway 527 in Canyon Park down to the 522 interchange as soon as they can, but the Legislature has not funded the project. Right now, that new lane would have to be funded by toll revenue.

As it stands today, construction would not even begin until 2024. Expect WSDOT to ask the legislature for funding to move this project up.

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