I-405 express toll lanes get a 6-month report card
It’s time for the six-month report card for the new express toll lanes on I-405. Some drivers still say it’s much worse than it used to be, others are making use of the faster lanes. The state says everyone is saving time.
The Washington State Department of Transportation insists the express toll lanes are working even better than expected.
“Drivers have become earlier adopters a lot faster than we anticipated,” said WSDOT Tolling Director Patty Rubstello. “That’s not only good for them but it’s good for the overall corridor. The more people that are using the express toll lanes helps the general purpose lanes move better as well.”
Rubstello said drivers using the southbound toll lanes during the morning commute are saving an average of 10 minutes per trip. They are saving 13 minutes in the northbound lanes going home in the evening.
But I can hear you drivers saying, “hey, those are the people who can fork over the cash to pay. What about the general purpose lanes?”
Rubstello said the general purpose drive in the morning is an average six minutes faster than before tolling began. The northbound drive is three minutes faster, though she admits that stretch from Bothell to Lynnwood is a problem. That’s where the freeway goes from five lanes to three.
“From 522 up to 527, that continues to be the challenge, and we do see that (general purpose) lanes are about three minutes slower during the peak period,” Rubstello said. “Overall, though, if you’re driving from Bellevue all the way up to Lynnwood, you are seeing a three minute travel time benefit.”
The target for the express toll lanes is to have vehicles traveling at 45 miles per hour. That goal is being hit more than 90 percent of the time during peak hours, which Rubstello says is a huge improvement over the old HOV lanes.
“We took a look at what it was before. Southbound we were at about 78 percent meeting that standard, and northbound we were at 44 percent,” Rubstello said. “So less than half the time we were well below 40 miles per hour.”
Kim Henry is in charge of the entire I-405 corridor. He continues to tweak where he can to improve conditions, and he says they are working to speed up the use of the shoulder between Canyon Park and I-5 during peak hours.
“We really think that is going to help this whole traffic area and help traffic move through here a lot better,” Henry said. “Once that does, it’s going to take pressure off this whole northbound direction and improve travel times for everybody.”
No timeline for that yet, but Henry says it shouldn’t be too long.
A few other stats from the first six months include:
• 7.5 million trips have been taken in the toll lanes so far
• 70 percent of those express lane trips were tolled
• More than 200,000 Flex Passes are in use
The average toll continues to run $4 or under. But until recently that statistic included all times of the day. The toll lanes now have free times during the evening and on weekends.