A Retreat from Tolling on I-405

405 ETL lanes mostly free-flowing while NB general purpose lanes congested along almost the entire corridor
405 ETL lanes mostly free-flowing at the beginning of the PM peak, while NB general purpose lanes remain congested along almost the entire corridor

[UPDATE: The original post failed to note that suggested changes to tolling prices are subject to approval by the Washington State Transportation Commission. The WSTC has not yet met to consider the most recent proposal from the House Democrats].

Under political pressure from Republicans in the Legislature, WSDOT is paring back the express toll lanes on I-405. If approved by the WSTC, the lanes would be open The lanes will be open to all drivers without tolls on evenings and weekends.

In the Senate, SB 6152 passed out of committee on Wednesday. The bill emphasizes that the imposition of tolls is authorized for a two-year period only. The bill would prohibit tolls between 7pm and 5am, on weekends, and on all federal and state holidays. The bill even micromanages lane access, requiring that WSDOT continue to expand the length of the access and exit points to the express toll lanes. Earlier language that would have converted one of the ETL lanes between Bellevue and Bothell to a general purpose lane was dropped.

In the House, companion bill HB 2312 has not gotten out of committee (the deadline is Tuesday). However, House Democrats wrote WSDOT Tuesday evening requesting several of the changes in the Senate Bill. The changes were agreed with WSDOT. WSDOT will should “eliminate tolls during evening non-peak hours, weekends, and holidays, to the extent that such a change will improve commuters’ experience on I-405” (thereby giving WSDOT some flexibility in setting hours of operation). The letter also suggests a long list of operational changes. Most notably, WSDOT is to consider “re-instating” a general purpose lane on NB I-405 between SR 520 and NE 70th St, where an exit lane was converted to general purpose use to make room for the ETL. WSDOT is also to modify the highway north of SR 522 to allow shoulder-running (the implications for ST and CT buses that already run on the shoulder here are unclear). The timing of the changes depends on Federal Highway Administration approval, but WSDOT is to report to the Legislature within six months on the impacts.

I-405 tolling, less than five months after introduction, has become a partisan football. Continue reading “A Retreat from Tolling on I-405”