Compiled from information from the Washington State Department of Transportation
Drivers on I-405 experience some of the worst traffic in the state—up to eight hours of congestion each day. The HOV lanes are often just as congested as the general purpose lanes. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been working on a solution to this problem. Since June of 2012, WSDOT has been widening I-405 with the purpose of adding a new high occupancy toll lane in each direction, from Bothell to NE 6th Street in Bellevue, to work in conjunction with the existing HOV lane. This would increase vehicle throughput and ease congestion.
A new lane combined with the existing HOV lane will create a dual express toll lane system from downtown Bellevue to Bothell/Woodinville or SR 522. Additionally, the existing HOV lane from SR 522 to I-5 will be converted to a single express toll lane. The new lanes will provide drivers with the option to drive in the general purpose lanes for free, or pay a toll to access the express toll lanes where traffic should move 45 miles per hour or faster at least 90% of the time (similar to the SR 167 HOT lanes between Renton and Auburn). Carpools, transit and vanpools meeting the new occupancy requirements will still use the lanes for free. The regular lanes on I-405 will remain free.
You might be thinking, “But the HOV lanes are already congested; how will this work to ease congestion?” Great question. Essentially, express toll lane rates will be set by drivers, and depend on how far they are traveling. The toll will automatically increase and decrease based on how many people have chosen to use the lanes. The toll automatically increases when traffic in the express toll lanes is heavier and decreases when traffic is lighter, ensuring the express toll lanes keep traffic moving at free flow speeds. Drivers will enter and exit the express toll lanes using designated access points and the price posted as they enter the lane is the price they will pay. As a driver approaches the entry point to the express toll lanes, he will see a sign with up to three destinations. The toll the driver sees for his destination at that time is the price he will pay for his trip.
Note: The NE 6th Street I-405 direct-access ramps in Bellevue will be located within the tolling area for I-405 accessing the ramps to and from the north only.
Drivers can use their Good To Go! account to pay a toll to use the high occupancy toll lanes. If they don’t have an account, they will receive a bill in the mail at a higher toll rate. Transit, vanpools and carpools with the designated number of passengers will still be able to use the lanes for free. To use the express toll lanes free, carpool drivers will need the new Good To Go! Flex Pass, which will be offered by WSDOT in spring 2015.
Toll Rates and Exemptions
As with all other state toll facilities, the Washington State Transportation Commission will set toll rates and exemptions for the I-405 express toll lanes. Toll rates will automatically adjust based on the amount of traffic in the lanes and the Commission will set a minimum and maximum. The Commission’s current proposal includes the following:
- A range of 75 cents for the minimum toll and $10 for the maximum toll for this 17-mile system.
- Carpools must have three or more people to be exempt from paying a toll during peak periods (weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), and carpools with two or more people will be exempt during off-peak periods. For more information from the Commission about the 2+ or 3+ question, read on here.
The Washington State Transportation Commission is seeking public comment. How will you use the express toll lanes? Drivers can find more information on the Commission’s proposal and provide comments via email, web, discussion forums, writing, phone, or public meetings:
Visit WSDOT’s frequently asked questions about I-405 express toll lanes or email WSDOT at firstname.lastname@example.org .
“But I am a carpooler – so that means I don’t have to pay the toll, right?”
Right – if you have the designated number of passengers. Currently carpoolers with 2 or more persons are allowed to drive in the HOV lane. The current proposal by the Washington State Transportation Commission is to increase the number of passengers to 3 or more that ride free in the express toll lanes during peak periods.
“How do I find an additional carpool partner or start a 3+ carpool?”
That’s where On The Move Bellevue staff can help! See our infographic on how to find a ridematch on www.OnTheMoveBellevue.org. Or give us a call for more information: 425-990-3097. Soon, you will also be able to search for carpool partners on www.iCarpool.com. This mobile app will provide real-time ridesharing opportunities at $.30 per mile. If you are looking for a ride or you prefer to be a driver this app could be perfect for you. Stay connected to our newsletter and we will be sure to blog about it when it is up and running. This may be a perfect time to try a different mode that can help you navigate the Express Toll Lanes or find a mode that can help you avoid I-405 altogether.
Whether it’s exploring a new bike route, a bus that works or a vanpool: we can help. Visit www.ChooseYourWayBellevue.org to explore the various transportation options in Bellevue or fill out a commute inquiry form and we will get back to you shortly!
How do you plan to use the Express Toll Lanes? Are you considering a different way to work? Let us know! E-mail us at email@example.com.
Choose Your Way Bellevue staff
Note: This post has been updated since its original version to add a link for more information about the 2+ or 3+ question and about the NE 6th Street direct-access ramps tolling.