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I-405 toll lanes not hitting benchmark speeds often enough

Drivers in the I-405 express toll lanes are seeing speeds of 45 mph or less more often than they should be, according to a recent report by WSDOT. (WSDOT)

The I-405 toll lanes may have far exceeded initial revenue expectations, but they are under-performing when it comes to traffic speeds.

According to the first yearly report on the system, the lanes have maintained speeds of 45 mph 85 percent of the time during peak periods. That is below the 90 percent goal.

However, the state still has time to make adjustments, before it becomes mission critical.

Related: I-405 toll revenue well over what state predicted

The Washington State Department of Transportation was given two years to not only get the project to pay for itself, but also reach the benchmark for speeds. WSDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson told the Everett Herald that “tolling would cease” if those two requirements were not being met.

The toll lanes were meeting benchmark up until June, according to the Herald. Two key factors played into a reduction in speeds during peak times: Capacity between Bothell and Lynnwood on northbound I-405 and increasing demand due to regional growth, according to the state.

As far as capacity goes, the state built express lanes south of Highway 522, but didn’t do the same north; five lanes drops to three. And the state reports drivers made 6,000 more weekday peak period trips in the lanes in September 2016, compared to October 2015, adding to the overall congestion that toll lanes are supposed to reduce.

The state is already tackling the issue.

Recently, the Washington State Department of Transportation awarded a contract to add hard-shoulder driving to a stretch of the interstate.

Additionally, the long-term plan for I-405 calls for rebuilding the SR 522 interchange and adding more lanes to create a dual express toll lane system that extends to I-5.

State tolling Director Patty Tubstello said that while the toll lanes are not meeting expectations, the speeds are much better than the former HOV lanes, which were only getting traffic up to 45 mph during peak times 60 percent of the time, the Herald reports.

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