On Monday, the new tolling system on Interstate 405 launched. And, as could be expected, many drivers expressed confusion and frustration over the new system. For some drivers, the commute was one of their best ever, but for many more, it was one of their worst. The Everett Herald,
“Express toll lanes were relatively empty. Anyone can use the lanes for the cost of the posted toll (with an added $2 if they don’t have a Good To Go account, among other caveats).
“Those who did use the toll lanes saved up to 50 minutes compared to drivers in the sea of brake lights to the right.
“At 7:30 a.m. traffic conditions put the travel time from Lynnwood to Bellevue at 70 minutes in the general purpose lanes, compared to 20 minutes in the express toll lanes.”
Toll prices varied during the morning, costing drivers anywhere from 75 cents to $2.50 and averaging $1.50.
Not all drivers opting to use the toll lanes had a smooth experience. Simply getting to the toll lanes proved nearly impossible for some drivers. Drivers coming from Highway 522, a notorious chokepoint, experienced difficulty as they attempted to get across many lanes of heavy traffic.
Making the problem worse, toll lanes are separated from regular traffic by double white lanes. Crossing these double white lanes is illegal and would result in a pricey $136 traffic ticket. That means drivers must wait to access the toll lanes either by direct-access ramps or by designated entry and exit points marked by dashed white lines. That reality resulted in double the usual travel time for many drivers, including those using (or attempting) to use the toll lanes.
State Rep. Mark Harmsworth says he’ll seek to suspend tolls if the problems do not improve. The Everett Herald,
“The Mill Creek Republican — who is a member of the House Transportation Committee and earlier this year tried unsuccessfully to block the carpool occupancy change — tracked the morning commute via the state’s traffic cameras.
“‘I felt like the state should be turning it up slowly rather than turning it up all the way on the first day,’ Harmsworth said.”
The new toll system has met with plenty of criticism. KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz pointed out that WSDOT officials were creating more traffic congestion, then asking commuters to pay them to fix the problem. Via MyNorthwest.com,
“They created the traffic and now they want you to pay for the privilege to get out of it. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damaging to the thousands of commuters every day.
“By refusing to give an overcrowded system more general purpose lanes, they’ve made the traffic worse for you. Then, they have the audacity to tell you they’ll help so long as you give the state more money than you’re already giving them.”
Rantz went on to explain WSDOT’s potentially sinister intentions,
“Oh, they’re just so generous. Only, their “generosity” is limited. There’s a reason they’re so prominently guaranteeing you 45 mph in the toll lanes. The average speeds of these lanes have to be 45 mph in order to guarantee federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“That means, if too many of you (who they swear they want to accommodate and save from traffic) use the toll lanes, you will hurt the 45 mph guarantee. That’s when WSDOT will jack the toll prices up to $10 each way. They’re incentivized by federal dollars to price you out of the lanes; so their tweets promising you sanctuary from the bumper-to-bumper traffic is mostly them teasing you.”
WSDOT certainly will not put federal funding in jeopardy. That likely means absurdly high toll prices are on the horizon.