Republican State Representative Mark Harmsworth is taking steps to respond to the overwhelming number of people who have voiced their strong dislike for the Washington Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) tolling scheme on Interstate 405. Harmsworth recently stated, “What I’ve been hearing from my constituents is that 405 is an unmitigated disaster.”
So, he plans to propose a bill that would suspend the I-405 tolling lanes.
Harmsworth’s proposal would scale back WSDOT’s I-405 express lane tolling project. Currently, there are two toll lanes going each direction. Harmsworth’s bill would leave in place one the new tolling lane onI-405, but return to drivers an HOV lane during the day which would open to all traffic starting at 7 p.m.
“The tolling pieces are still there for one lane but it gives back a lane to everybody that was taken earlier in the year,” Harmsworth told KOMO News. “And after 7 p.m. it’s open to all traffic so everybody can use all the lanes without paying. So that’ll really help get things moving again.”
WSDOT officials continue to claim that they did not convert general purpose lanes on I-405 to toll lanes. Officials have responded to commuters’ demands to give them back their 4th general purpose lane by stating that “no general purpose lanes were removed to create an express toll lane.” Rather, according to WSDOT, “a lane was added to create [two express] toll lanes Bothell-Bellevue.”
Of course, WSDOT officials did remove a general purpose lane to create an express toll lane. They just did it in two steps.
WSDOT claims that there were three general purpose lanes on I-405. However, what the agency is claiming now does not match up with what it told the public back in 2007. As the Washington Policy Center points out, in 2007, WSDOT promoted a project widening I-405 by promising commuters a fourth general purpose lane.
In 2010, the I-405 tolling bill (SHB 2941) circumvented the original plan for I-405. Via the Washington Policy Center,
“The I-405 Master Plan was adopted in 2002 and plans for up to two additional lanes in each direction along the entire I-405 corridor. Some of the projects, including the new lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood, were funded with the Nickel and TPA gas tax increases in 2005 and 2007. In fact, the WSDOT has already built a portion of the lanes just north of Bellevue to fix the infamous ‘Kirkland Crawl.’ This mile-and-half section is open and being used by general purpose traffic. The WSDOT is also currently extending the lanes further north.
“SHB 2941 would convert these existing lanes and the remainder of the yet-to-be-built gas tax lanes to HOT (toll) lanes.”
Harmsworth’s proposal comes after WSDOT released its latest data on the I-405 tolling scheme last month. According to the report, drivers using the express toll lanes have seen the benefits—but at a cost. Drivers willing to pay an average of $2 to $3 a trip save 12 to 14 minutes off their trips.
The report also, however, acknowledges congestion for commuters using the general purpose lanes has increased during the weekday evening commute between Bothell and Lynnwood. For those drivers, the commute takes five to ten minutes longer.
Harmsworth believes he can get bi-partisan support for his bill. For the sake of all those general purpose lane users, here’s hoping he is right.
I find it hilarious (and a bit sad) that the some of the same dumb mistakes have been implemented on 405 that was done on SR167.
The entry and exit points in the hot lanes are not big enough, and sometimes placed in bad spots. Forcing people to either stay in the HOV lane when exiting earlier (or later) may be easier and better for traffic. On the flipside, a forced entry point causes more traffic when you have to enter on a specific spot.
After feedback, they removed the double white lines and forced entry/exit points on 167. Yet here they did the same thing, AND they took away another general purpose lane.
If you are southbound and want to get off at 124th Street, you MUST exit the ETL just past SR 527. That is 5 miles of driving in the General Purpose lanes.
This is classic WSDOT, they fail the citizens and are essentially immune from responsibility for that failure.
Why wasn’t someone fired for the disasters caused by the mismanagement and attempts at non representative taxing of the Citizens by the WSDOT.
To clarify, there were 4 general purpose lanes in several sections, including the section on southbound 405 between 116th Street and 85th Street. Some more interesting data that was taken this morning:
In a traffic count sample of the ETL during morning rush at 195th Street, for every 20 car count there were 17 solo drivers and 3 carpools of 2+.
In a 10 minute sample, 104 carpools of 2+ were counted in the General Purpose lanes during morning rush hour at the same location. Visit http://stop405tolls.org/2015/12/03/banner-morning/ for more information and be sure to sign the petition!
Clay Fitzgerald says
The I-405 “HOT” lanes take up between 40% to 50% of the roadway that can be used for vehicle travel and is more then ample evidence of the lack of fiduciary responsibility of WSDOT. That doesn’t even include the gross misuse of the revenue collected when 70% goes to the corporation that monitors it and only 30% is returned to the state, and the company isn’t even located in Washington. It’s a scam and a rip-off.
Harmsworth’s proposed legislation is a small step in the right direction, but it should be the elimination of all so-called “HOT” lanes and only have one part time HOV lane in each direction on each and every roadway in the state where they now exist. Future creation of HOV lanes should require a vote of the legislature or the voters before they can be approved and implemented.
The washdot folks are not elected, so trying to assign responsibility is futile. Their 405 scheme is a disaster, the rules for running it for two years just require them to make enough money from tolls to pay for the scheme itself. What??? The whole thing needs to be looked at from a systems perspective. Toll 405, everyone moves over to I5 and surface streets. Didn’t they learn anything from the 520 bridge toll disaster. The cost to the Puget Sound residents of this foolishness in time and lost productivity is probably 10 times that the tolls generate. Fire the idiots who are in charge of this mess and get rid of the tolls. Where is the study of the overall cost to the Puget Sound residents of this mess? Media folks, get to work.