Last week, the state Transportation Commission approved a plan to toll Interstate 405 express lanes from Bellevue to Lynnwood. As Shift reported, carpools will be required to have at least three people during peak hours – up from the current requirement of two people – and an annual pass to use the express lanes for free. Other drivers will “have to pay between 75 cents and $10 — in cases of extreme congestion — to travel one way between Bellevue and Lynnwood, depending on traffic.”
Critics have pointed out that the tolling plans conflict with the primary goal of any transportation system: moving the most people as quickly as possible. The Washington Policy Center points to alternatives for raising revenue while keeping traffic moving,
“If state leaders opted instead for only one HOT lane and left the new lane open to the traveling public as a general purpose lane, even more traffic would move during the I-405 Bothell to Bellevue morning commute (20,600 in general purpose lanes + 4,000 in the HOT lane = 24,600).
“Although this is a rough calculation and other ideas may further maximize throughput, it illustrates other possible alternatives not provided to the public for consideration. Additional questions, like how does the HOT lane configuration compare with the official I-405 Master Plan, have yet to be answered. It is likely, however, that any policy that further maximizes throughput would push state officials even further away from the revenue gains needed to justify the tolling program.
“State officials still have time to make this right, and they should consider all options before increasing fees on the traveling public and restricting traffic flows.”
This will be another failed boondoggle brought to us the corrupt and inept WSDOT. The same people that brought us the 405/I-90 interchange redesign. The worst interchange redesign in the history of road construction. This will be no different than the failed HOT lane on SR167. What does government do with a money-losing failure of a program? Expand it, of course. What about the I-405 master plan? Who cares. There’s campaign contributors in Arizona to keep happy
Eastside Sanity says
Tolls! Classic! Let’s add more to the cost of tourism, that should work. Hotel Tax, Gas Tax, Event Tax, Rental Car Tax, Sales Tax.
405 High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are a bad idea for many reasons. First, the new lane is being paid for by the Nickel Gas Tax passed over a decade ago. Nothing like a “congestion pricing” policy designed to punish those of us paying for the lane we won’t be able to use unless we pay a toll on top of the gas tax, or organize a three person carpool. Also, the expected tolls won’t generate anywhere near the money needed to actually build a lane, and they cost a bundle to collect. Second, the overall throughput of 405 will be diminished measurably. This will not only increase congestion and reduce economic vitality, it will deliberately increase carbon emissions by government policy. Not so great for the environment. As for the original 405 Master Plan, it called for “up to” two new General Purpose lanes each direction on 405. We will now have only one additional GP lane north from Bellevue, and won’t get any additional GP capacity from Bellevue to Renton in the foreseeable future. WSDOT admitted they needed to do a Supplemental EIS to be allowed to operate the Gas Tax funded HOT lanes, since HOT lanes weren’t an alternative considered in the original SEPA/NEPA study. Cambridge Systematics also did an analysis of the issue, due to concerns the Eastside Transportation Association (ETA) raised over exaggerated claims of mobility and revenue WSDOT was making before they were held accountable. Unless we step up and raise the Gas Tax (even with WSDOT’s lousy track record spending it), we’ll see even more tolling on our former “free”ways. By the way, the proposed Gas Tax increase will cost the average Washington driver about $6/month or half a cent per mile. Compare this to tolls approaching a dollar per mile before completely rejecting a gas tax increase.
Kevin Albrecht says
Very late to this, but I want to know how they will be able to discern three people in the car while in the HOT lanes? Will they be photographing the occupants like a red-light camera?