This session the state legislature is looking at moving forward the idea of “Express Toll Lanes” on I-405 and SR-167. More commonly referred to as High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, HB 1382 would start a process of expanding the HOT lane system, starting at the north end of I-405 and working southwards, eventually connecting to the existing HOT lanes. This would create a continuous managed north-south corridor from Puyallup to Lynnwood.
The idea behind managed lanes is to preserve the travel time reliability of the HOV network while maximizing the throughput of those lanes. Transit and some carpools would continue to use the lanes as normal but solo drivers would be able to buy into the lanes. As the lanes fill up the price for solo drivers to enter the lanes increases.
A major change, that will certainly be controversial is a move away from 2+ HOV lanes to 3+ HOV lanes. This is necessary for the lanes to pencil out financial and for WSDOT to meet HOV performance standards in the future. Today many regional HOV facilities are already failing WSDOT’s 45 MPH, during 90% of rush hour performance standard.
While the SR-167 HOT lane pilot has been somewhat of a disappointment, especially with regards to revenue, it has shown that a system like this is feasible and has potential. Last year the legislature directed WSDOT to complete a study of the idea, which they also had reviewed by an expert review panel. The proposed legislation builds off the expert review panel’s recommendation.
The expert review panel recommended moving forward with a two phase implementation of Option 4. They identified two generations of HOT lanes systems, the first which requires less capitol is targeted a maximizing the efficiency of the road system with second generation systems having an added focus on revenue generation to pay for HOT lane related capacity expansion.
Last week it passed out of the House Transportation Committee. It will be interesting to see where this bill goes.