CHOKEPOINTS

Looking at 2 huge changes: Max tolls and ramp meters

Oct 17, 2023, 5:05 AM

I-405, toll; Aerial view of the I-405 express toll lanes in Bothell....

An aerial view of the I-405 express toll lanes in Bothell. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

It’s a grab bag Tuesday.  Let’s look at two huge changes coming to your roads.

We’ll start with the potential maximum toll changes. As we first reported in May, the Washington State Transportation Commission has long been considering raising the rates on the tolling corridor from Lynnwood to Puyallup on Interstate 405 and State Route 167.

Those routes hit their maximums frequently, $9 on SR 167 and $10 on I-405, and those prices just aren’t enough to keep people from paying their way in. There are times where congestion is just as bad in the toll lane as it is in the general purpose lanes.

The commission will vote Tuesday on whether to start the public outreach process, which includes in-house researching on the impacts of raising the prices.

More Chokepoints: Construction season comes to an end as I-90 work wraps east of Snoqualmie Pass

The maximum toll rates could go up to $15 or higher, on both SR 167 and I-405 to help manage the congestion. The commission is also looking at extending the hours for the peak High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) requirements, those come with the three-plus requirement.

These changes would come on line, if approved, in 2025 when the entire corridor is built out.

The one interesting change to watch will be the segmenting of the toll system. Right now, what you see is what you pay when you get in. There really aren’t any segments. The Seattle Times reports that you could end up paying a maximum toll from Lynnwood to Bellevue, another max toll from Bellevue to Renton and a third maximum toll from Renton to Puyallup. That might not be very likely, but it is possible.

Remember, we were told that we would rarely hit the $10 max on 405 when the system started.

Ramp meters may be active soon

Let’s move on to another driver favorite, ramp meters, especially these ones between I-90 and I-5 in downtown Seattle. All that’s left is to turn them on. If you’ve driven the collector-distributor lanes recently, the signs are up. The signals are up.

I’m hearing that they are about a month away from going active.

More from Chris Sullivan: Left lane camping rule doesn’t apply to express toll lanes

It’s such a change the state is going to unveil a huge public campaign soon to help drivers understand what’s happening and why.  The ramp meters will be active after the James and Madison Streets exit- only lanes on that transition ramp from I-90 to I-5.

They will funnel drivers down to just one lane of traffic entering I-5 north. There will also be an active ramp meter from James Street to I-5 north.

The goal is to manage all the traffic entering I-5 north.

And yes, I know what you are saying. “How can they put signals on the freeway?” Just understand, this is not a direct connection from freeway to freeway. It is considered a ramp, and the state can meter ramps.

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Looking at 2 huge changes: Max tolls and ramp meters