While it appears more people were paying the toll on I-405 on Wednesday, the lanes were still wide open. In contrast, the general purpose lanes remained crowded.
Drivers are reporting that they’d love to be in those express lanes, but they can’t find a third person to meet the new 3-plus HOV requirement. The HOV breakdown is simple: drivers won’t be charged if they have three or more people in the car.
The Washington State Transportation Commission is the agency responsible for increasing the HOV requirement from 2-plus to 3-plus on I-405.
Will it stay this way forever?
“I think right now, we’re hoping and we’re confident that it will shake out and sort itself out if it’s just given some time,” said Reema Griffith with the transportation commission. “Four months into this, if things are holding the way they are today, then certainly they will have to look at it.”
Griffith said the commission will be looking at the backups on I-405 and whether more people are diverting to I-5 — which we have seen this week. She said they would need a few months of hard data before making a change.
“The commission stands ready to adjust any of its policies if those are indeed determined that they are part of the contributing issue,” she said. “But right now we are going to wait and watch.”
Griffith acknowledged the 3-plus requirement is a huge change for drivers and reminded me that it took about a year before the region adjusted to the tolls on the 520 bridge.
“We’re not going to make light of, or suggest that it’s so easy to get a third person,” she said. “It’s hard enough to get one person to go with you that matches your schedule. It’s tough to have that kind of commitment.”
But Griffith noted that the state has given drivers an option for a fast and reliable trip, and that’s a good thing.
“If we can make the commute just a little better for some of the commuters by offering this option, we think that it’s worth exploring and doing,” she said.
That’s great, if you can afford the tolls. How’s that sitting with those of you stuck in the general purpose lanes?