The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will begin implementing the new I-405 tolling scheme on September 27. The tolls will impact the High Occupancy Toll lanes from Bellevue to Lynnwood. Carpools will be required to have at least three people during peak hours – up from the current requirement of two people – and display an annual pass to use the express lanes. All other drivers can use the express lanes, for a fee. The Everett Herald,
“Tolls in the High Occupancy Toll lanes will range from 75 cents to $10 per trip, and that’s if you have a flex pass attached to your vehicle. It’s even more costly if you don’t. According to the Transportation Department, the basic strategy is to implement a user-based fee structure to offset the capital infrastructure expenses needed to reduce increased commute times.”
Notably, the state is only collecting 30 cents out of every dollar in tolls. The rest of commuters’ toll money will go to a tolling vender in Texas.
The enforcement aspect on the controversial project—particularly Washington State Patrol’s ability to ensure compliance—makes the scheme still more ridiculous. Jeff Merrill, president of the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association, recently wrote an op-ed in the Everett Herald to explain the problem,
“The State Patrol requested years ago to participate in the planning stages of the enforcement piece on this project and were rebuffed by transportation officials. The agency’s assertions that the enforcement component on Highway 167 have proven effective are laughable. On the Highway 167 project, $1 million dollars were set aside to pay for one trooper each “rush hour” overtime to enforce the entire “Good to Go” project. This included HOV enforcement and vehicles entering and exiting the HOV/toll lane in unauthorized locations, or bypassing the enforcement cameras. Given the fact that there are little or no shoulders on Highway 167, troopers could not determine which vehicles were legitimate HOV/Toll users. Additionally, given the volumes of traffic in the right two lanes, it was an impossible task to safely conduct a traffic stop on the right shoulder. Troopers quickly gave up and focused on other violations while being paid overtime to enforce this tolling project. Resulting in zero “Good-to-Go” enforcement on this toll highway.”
The State Patrol raised its concerns with WSDOT early on in the planning stages of I-405, but was rebuffed and dismissed. Instead, the State Patrol was informed that the project set aside $3 million for “troopers to conduct overtime emphasis patrols on the same enforcement criteria.” Throwing more tax dollars at a bad design does not improve the bad design. The Everett Herald,
“However, these HOV/Toll lanes will at times require 3 or more occupants, have a different color 2-inch flex pass visible on the front windshield, and will be guaranteed a speed of 45 mph. Still with little or no shoulders available on which to safely conduct a traffic stop…
“Set aside the fact that if a vehicles windows are tinted and the flex pass displays the HOV mode, any visibility into the vehicle to verify the actual number of occupants is impossible. The enforcement component on this project will simply not work.”
Merrill wraps-up by pointing out that when—not if—the state “asserts that this system is failing to produce the desired results because of a lack of enforcement, you will know the rest of this story.”
I’m still very confused about the Flex Pass, I thought that was only for commuter cars so they would not get charged. If I want to drive in that lane, don’t I just need a good to go pass?? Every article I read says something different, no wonder people can’t figure it out.
Earl Poulsen says
The 2-color devices mentioned flex-pass device reminds me of those home pregnancy tests.
the fact that the state only get $0.30 from each dollar collected in tolls is a little troubling. Who made that idiotic deal? Shouldn’t it be the other way around if they’re going to collect a toll. Hell the 520 bridge back in the 70’s collected $0.25 from each car. So fast forward 40 or so years and all the more they are getting is $0.05 per vehicle on an even busier road? Idiots at best…..morons for sure.
Washington State Government at its best – screwing the citizens, wasting money, and accomplishing little OTHER THAN THE EROSION OF YOUR FREEDOMS. WELCOME TO THE SOCILIST STATE OF WASHINGTON , COMPLIMENTS OF THE DEMOCRATS – THE PARTY OF SATAN!
I call BS on the statistic that says 70% will go to the TX company. My guess is that the breakdown the Everett Herald posted is more accurate (given that they have, you know, exact numbers and contract values and all) – that is, 65% of the toll will go to pay for the system itself, broken down as such:
35%: Future improvement of the I-405 corridor
65%: Maintenance of the system
20.15% (31% of that 65%): Lane system maintenance (French company)
16.25% (25% of that 65%): Back office services & customer services (TX company)
15.6% (24% of that 65%): Credit card fees, printing, postage, WSDOT Toll Division
13% (20% of that 65%): WA State Patrol
That seems to make a lot more sense, given the contracts involved. Unless you want to provide more detail behind this uncited statistic?
And, yes, it still involves 36.40% of the tolls going outside the state, which is less than ideal. A far cry from 70-75% going outside the state, and unless you can point to WA companies which can do the same tasks for the same price or less, I’m disinclined to believe it is a real issue vs. FUD.