Contrary to the claims of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and some news outlets, the toll lanes on Interstate 405 are not “moving more cars per hour than their HOV predecessors.” WSDOT claims that the old HOV lane carried 15 percent of traffic near NE 85th Street in Kirkland. On the other hand, the new toll lanes carry 25 percent.
However, on the surface, the data does not give an accurate indication of—well—the truth. According to the Washington Policy Center, WSDOT’s own data reveals that the new HOV lanes are only carrying 12.5 percent of vehicles per lane, far below the 15 percent of the old HOV lane. The three remaining general-purpose lanes are carrying the rest of traffic (75 percent of the traffic). That means “25 percent per lane, double the traffic throughout of the toll lane.”
In a recent email to constituents, GOP state Senator Andy Hill explained why he has proposed changes to improve the I-405 toll lane policies and reduce congestion. He writes,
“While large scale projects require an adjustment period, WSDOT’s toll lane implementation has not demonstrated they’re going to make this work for users. Drivers simply aren’t getting the service, congestion relief and overall system improvements they were promised.”
The proposal introduced by Sen. Hill—along with GOP state Rep. Mark Harmsworth—would eliminate one of I-405’s vaunted toll lanes, and let the drivers (who already paid for it through gas taxes) use it as a general-purpose lane. Additionally, their bill would make other changes intended to reduce congestion on the busy roadway.
More specifically, the proposal would scale back WSDOT’s I-405 express lane tolling project. Currently, there are two toll lanes in each direction. The bill would leave in place one new tolling lane in each direction on I-405, but convert the other back to an HOV lane during the day and, like the old HOV lanes, would open to all traffic starting at 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next morning.
Since it was introduced, the bill has gained bipartisan support. State Rep. Patty Kuderer offered her support for the bill. In a recent email Kuderer stated,
“I hear your frustrations. I’ve experienced them myself, which is why I’m sponsoring a bipartisan bill to address the problems with I-405. While I do not currently serve on the Transportation Committee, I will work with my colleagues to see if we can find some common sense solutions to the issues that currently plague I-405.”
Kuderer joins Democrat state Sen. Cyrus Habib and Democrat state Representatives Steve Bergquist, Gerry Pollet, and Derek Stanford in understanding that WSDOT has no credibility with their constituents.
I will take it one step further. WSDOT also reported only 15% of cars in the ETL are HOVs. That means 85% are SOVs or 2+ carpools.
Stop405tolls.org observations showed 85% of vehicles in the ETL are SOVs (defined as no person in the front passenger seat) and 15% were 2 OR 3 person carpools (someone was in the front passenger seat). So for every 2 person carpool that paid, there was 1 SOV that was set to HOV.
Before ETLs, that lane was 100% carpools. Now it is 85% SOVs.