A morning commute from Lynnwood to Bellevue (16 miles) on I-405 took an average of 44 minutes in 2013. Today, according to a 2014 state congestion report, the same commute takes drivers almost 70 minutes. Of course, traffic also stalls buses. The average Lynnwood-Bellevue I-405 bus commute takes 45 minutes in the morning even with the advantages of car pool lanes and special exits.
I-405 experiences up to eight hours of congestion per day, arguably the worst traffic in the state. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is taking steps to provide some relief to drivers. The problem is, WSDOT’s plan isn’t likely to make drivers a whole lot happier.
WSDOT is proposing new rules for the I-405 express toll lanes set to open this fall between Lynnwood and Bellevue. Under the state’s proposal, carpools would 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 “would have to pay between 75 cents and $10 — in cases of extreme congestion — to travel one way between Bellevue and Lynnwood, depending on traffic.”
WSDOT’s blow to drivers’ pocketbooks doesn’t stop with proposed new tolling rules. The amount the department plans to spend just to implement the new tolls manages to make a bad situation worse.
The complexity of WSDOT’s plan translates into high operating costs. According to the Seattle Times, the state estimates costs at $5 million rising to almost $8 million a year by 2021. That means the state plans on eating up three-fourths of the toll revenue just for operations. To be clear, for every dollar that WSDOT would charge drivers, the state would only generate 25 cents in revenue. That is a ridiculous overhead margin by any standard, even for government.
State transportation officials have defended the high operating costs, issuing assurances that the plan will ease congestion in the end. However, others have not written off the absurdity of WSDOT’s proposal so easily. In fact, taking into consideration maintenance requirements, cost projections only get worse. The Seattle Times,
“Vic Bishop, chairman-elect of the Eastside Transportation Association, points to WSDOT estimates that the state will lose half a million dollars on tolling the first year, and spend about $41 million on maintenance and operations the next five years while its revenue will total $54 million.
“It’s an incredible cost to collect the tolls,” Bishop said.”
Simply put, the level of inefficiency is shocking and unacceptable. It’s the type of inefficiency that has plagued WSDOT for far too long. WSDOT’s inefficient tolling plan serves as a prime example for why our state needs transportation reforms like those included in the bi-partisan transportation package passed recently by the state Senate. Unfortunately, some Democrats—including Jay Inslee—are determined to ensure the status quo. They’ve even threatened to hold needed transportation reforms hostage to their demands for higher taxes.
If you are concerned over WSDOT’s inefficient use of resources, there is something you can do about it. You have one final opportunity to address your concerns to transportation officials.
The Transportation Commission—which includes seven members—has already held two “lightly attended” public meetings on the new toll lanes. This Wednesday night (March 18), commission members are expected to vote on the new toll rates and carpool size plan at their meeting in Kirkland. Prior to their vote, the commission will hear public comments.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Kirkland City Hall, 123 Fifth Ave., Kirkland on Wednesday, March 18. Additionally, an open house is scheduled from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at the same location “where people can learn more about the I-405 express toll lanes project.”
You can find additional information here.
Eastside Sanity says
Tolls, I mean, Taxs, I mean, Fees, I mean, Tolls, I’m from the government, I’m here to help……………
Glad I no longer make this horrendous commute. Washington Government Agencies are the WORST! The DEMS in charge have copied the Obama Model of Government waste, corruption, and INCOMPETENCE!!!!!
Up to TEN DOLLARS extorted for a one way trip. And $7.50 of that would go toward the extortion. There’s a company in Arizona where their passing out drool bibs to the staff.
It worked so well on SR167 it’s virtually gone now.
SR167 was the “study” road and did you notice the carpool lane on SB SR167 keeps shrinking? It used to end at 15th St NW in Auburn and now it ends about 272nd or further north. Pretty soon it will end at the Valley Medical exit.
You may have also noticed the double white line is gone except at the very end in both directions along with “illegal to cross double white line” signs. The signs that say $.50 or .75 or whatever the going extortion is at the time are still there. The Arizona company that runs it is hoping some sucker with a “good to fleece” pass will wander in there to pad their bottom line.
You’re right. Except I think there is a small section that someone forgot to remove. But you’re right about the $0.50 or $0.75 sign, unless it’s Sunday night after 10 pm, then it’s “Open to All”. I’ve often wondered if that means 1-person carpools. I never ventured in when alone because I don’t want to ruin my stellar driving record of no tickets or accidents since 1986 (knock on wood)
This is one of the dumbest projects in recent memory. Since these toll lanes are paid for by the gas tax, we are paying for these lane twice. They need to stick with the 2001 master plan which adds 2 general purpose lanes in each direction.
You know, if idiots would quit voting for idiots like Inslee and his band of heavy spenders, this state might get better. However, it’s going to take years to recover from the crap Gregoire and her gang of geese heaped on the state and now Inslee and his inept idiots (that sounds like a heavy metal band) are just compounding the suffering.