According to the latest reports, the Interstate 405 toll scheme is bringing in more than triple the estimated revenue that was projected last year. Drivers commuting on the corridor between Lynnwood and Bellevue spent $3.7 million between the September opening and the end of the year, compared to the original forecast of $1 million.
Patty Rubstello, state tolling director, told the Seattle Times, “Drivers quickly perceived the value of express toll lanes, and they jumped in earlier than forecast.”
Of course, reality paints a less rosy picture. The Washington Policy Center’s Bob Pishue points out that “massive demand” for traffic relief is reflected in “tolls that spike to $9 or $10 on occasion.” All in all, the “windfall” revenue is better described as a “misery index.” MyNortwest.com reports,
“The unexpected revenue from the tolls might explain the congestion drivers are experiencing in the general purpose lanes. The state recently admitted that traffic on I-405 is worse on the weekends and in the afternoons on the north end of the corridor.”
The I-405 toll lanes are not popular among motorists, and who could blame them considering that they are paying for the privilege of using lanes they already paid for. Senate Republicans recently dismissed Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Lynn Peterson, with the tolling debacle being the last straw in a series of mismanagement and incompetency issues impacting the agency.
WSDOT has vowed to work with the state Legislature to remove tolls at night, during the weekends, and on holidays. However, even those changes do not go as far as many commuters and legislators hoped – but Democrat Rep. Judy Clibborn blocked a bill aimed at a more comprehensive fix of the tolling scheme from even being heard in her committee.