Nearly 2 years in, I-405 express toll lanes miss 45 mile-per-hour benchmark

Sep 22, 2017, 4:51 AM | Updated: 9:02 am
I-405, toll lanes, toll, tolls, 405 tolls, I-405 tolls...
(MyNorthwest file photo)
(MyNorthwest file photo)

The Washington state Legislature gave the state’s transportation department two years to prove that express toll lanes on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood were an effective way to improve congestion in the corridor. That two-year deadline is Sept. 27.

Are the lanes making the grade?

The Legislature OK’d the express toll lanes with two very specific benchmarks to hit over the first two years. If they don’t meet those goals, the Legislature could shut them down. The lanes need to generate enough money to cover their operation and maintenance and they must provide a 45-mile-an-hour trip 90 percent of the time during peak hours.

RELATED: Several school zones receive failing grades for distracted driving

State Tolling Director Ed Barry said the lanes are making more than enough money, according to data representing the first 18 months.

“The revenue is doing very well,” he said. “It’s more than meeting its goal.”

The toll lanes generated $38.6 million. Operations and maintenance costs were $13.6 million. That has put $25 million into a fund that can only be used on improvements along the I-405 corridor. That’s where the state found the $11 million to install hard shoulder driving north of Canyon Park earlier this year.

But when it comes to the 45-mile-per-hour benchmark, the express toll lanes are not making the grade.

“It’s not meeting the 45 miles-per-hour metric 90 percent of the time,” Barry said. “It’s close. We’re 82 percent, and it’s getting better with the peak-use shoulder open. But it’s the southbound, single-lane section that is the real challenge for us.”

Barry said that shoulder driving has pushed the entire northbound corridor over the speed threshold, at least between April and June. The southbound direction is still not meeting the goal. The full two-year data will be released at the end of the year.

RELATED: Highway 2 pain not going away anytime soon

The tolling division admits the tolls are hitting the maximum $10 more often than it expected — nearly every morning — but Barry said most people are not paying that much.

“The average toll that we’re seeing is only $3 (actually $2.96), and that’s over the peak periods,” he said. “There are faster trips to be had out there, not at $10, but we realize that it does hit $10. People are concerned about that, but we like to say that ‘those are faster trips that people are getting for $10.’ There are also faster trips out there for much, much less.”

There are also no plans, at least for now, to raise the maximum toll above $10.

What about diversion?

I have drivers telling me all the time that their neighborhood streets are jammed now as people look to avoid the tolls. I see it on roads in south Snohomish County, through Woodinville and Bothell. It’s easy to blame the toll lanes, but their creation also came at a time with explosive growth. So is it diversion or just more people?

Barry is clear on what he believes.

“We don’t think diversion is an issue for this,” he said. “As the project has been around for two years, we think things have stabilized and people understand how it works. It’s working well and it will continue to work well.”

The state also said travel times in the general purpose lanes have improved along the corridor. As for how much faster the toll lanes are going than those general purpose lanes in the peak hours, the state said southbound drivers are going 20 mph faster. Northbound drivers are going 24 mph faster than the general purpose lanes.

What has your experience been in the express toll lanes?

Read more from KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint or ask a traffic question @KIROTraffic via Twitter.


electric vehicles...
Chris Sullivan

Market expert: Consumer confidence in electric vehicles is on the rise

Price, charging infrastructure, and range are the three improving indexes for gradual consumer confidence in electric vehicles.
1 day ago
flight, 5G...
Chris Sullivan

Major US airlines warn of flight disruptions Wednesday as new 5G service starts

Many airlines are warning of flight delays Wednesday as new 5G frequencies are fired up by cell phone companies that could interfere with landing.
3 days ago
reversible lane, 520...
Chris Sullivan

Reversible lane between SR 520 and I-5 under construction

The state Department of Transportation is ramping up work to add a reversible HOV lane between SR 520 and the I-5 express lanes in Seattle.
3 days ago
snow removal...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT accuses Kittitas County of ‘misinformation’ on snow removal dispute

The head of the Washington State Department of Transportation is basically saying Kittitas County is lying about its snow removal complaint.
7 days ago
Puget Sound commute...
Chris Sullivan

Uncertainty surrounding COVID, work schedules brings changes to Puget Sound commute

Commute times typically see a dip over the winter holidays, but it springs right back after the first of the year. That didn't happen this year.
8 days ago
pass closures...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT head tells legislature vaccine mandate had no impact on recent pass closures

The head of the Washington State Department of Transportation faced angry lawmakers Monday, asking if the vaccine mandate had an impact on pass closures.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Nearly 2 years in, I-405 express toll lanes miss 45 mile-per-hour benchmark