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Eastside Corridor Tolling Study - FAQ

I-405 express lanes tolling

Using express toll lanes

Paying for the express toll lanes

Toll exemptions

What are express toll lanes?
Express toll lanes give some drivers the choice to use HOV lanes to avoid traffic by paying a toll. I-405 express toll lanes will operate as an expressway within a highway, similar to the SR 167 HOT lanes.

Where are the express toll lanes being built?
Crews are constructing the 17-mile express toll lane system on I-405 between Northeast 6th Street in Bellevue and I-5 in Lynnwood. If funding is approved, the long-term I-405 corridor plan (pdf 172 kb) envisions a 40-mile express toll lane system between SR 167 at the Pierce/King County line and the I-405/I-5 interchange in Lynnwood.

Why is WSDOT building express toll lanes?
WSDOT is working to fix the worst traffic problems and create an efficient, reliable transportation system. Drivers on I-405 experience some of the worst traffic in the state—up to eight hours each day. The existing HOV lanes are often as congested as the regular lanes and fail to reduce traffic congestion. The solution: adding an additional lane to the existing HOV lane and making both lanes express toll lanes. WSDOT will adjust toll rates based on real-time traffic conditions to encourage the maximum numbers of drivers to use the toll lanes while keeping traffic moving at 45 mph or faster. This will take the guesswork and frustration out of the daily commute and help drivers, transit users, and vanpools get where they are going quicker.

What are the benefits of express toll lanes on I-405?
I-405 express toll lanes will make better use of the existing lanes and provide drivers the option to pay for a more reliable trip:

  • Reduce traffic congestion: Express toll lanes improve mobility for everyone in the corridor including transit, freight, and drivers in the general purpose lanes.
  • Manage demand to improve speed and reliability: Toll rates adjust based on real-time traffic conditions to maintain an average speed of at least 45 mph in the express toll lanes.
  • Provide for the future: Express toll lanes will provide funding towards future I-405 corridor improvements.
  • Operate efficiently: Express toll lanes move more people and offer a more reliable trip.

When would I use the express toll lanes?
Express toll lanes provide the option for a faster trip when you need it—whether that be during your regular daily commute, running late to an appointment, or picking up your child from school or day care. On SR 167, most drivers don’t use the HOT lanes every day, but they can use them when they need them.

Are the express toll lanes fair to drivers of all income levels?
Research on existing express toll lane users in Washington and in other parts of the country reveals that people of all income levels choose to pay tolls when they need a faster trip, whether that be during regular daily commute, running late to an appointment, or picking up a child from school or day care. They don't use them every day, but they do use them when they need them.

What effect will the express toll lanes have on transit and vanpools?
Currently, the HOV lanes are full during peak periods along I-405 and do not provide a reliable trip for transit and vanpools. By adding a new lane and managing it with tolls, transit and registered vanpool riders will experience faster commutes. Transit and registered vanpools will use the express toll lanes for free but must have a Good To Go! pass.

How will the express toll lanes be enforced?
Washington State Patrol will provide express toll lane enforcement, similar to SR 167 HOT lanes.

When will the new express toll lanes open?
The new I-405 express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood are scheduled to open by the end of 2015.

Why not just build more regular lanes?
Washington is experiencing record growth, which is good for the state, but increases traffic. We know from experience in Washington and across the nation that we if we just add a lane, it will fill up with traffic within a short period of time and we will be right back to where we started. There is not enough room in the corridor to add enough lanes for all future growth. Express toll lanes are the smart way to manage demand for limited road space. Express toll lanes move more cars, more efficiently and reduce the number of cars in the regular lanes so things move faster for everyone.

How many express toll lanes will be in operation in each direction?
Two express toll lanes will operate in each direction between Northeast 6th Street in Bellevue and State Route 522 in Bothell. A single express toll lane will operate in each direction between SR 522 in Bothell and I-5 in Lynnwood.

Are I-405 express toll lanes the same as SR 167 HOT lanes?
The SR 167 HOT lanes and the I-405 express toll lanes are similar, but they have some differences:

  • Registered owners of vehicles without a Good To Go! account will be sent a bill in the mail and charged a higher toll rate. Solo drivers without a Good To Go! pass cannot use the SR 167 HOT lanes.
  • Transit, motorcycles, and registered vanpools with a Good To Go! pass use the I-405 express toll lanes for free. Transit, motorcycles and registered vanpools do not need a Good To Go! pass to use the SR 167 HOT lanes for free.
  • Valid carpools (vehicles with the correct number of occupants) with a Flex Pass will always be free in the I-405 express toll lanes. The Flex Pass is a new pass that is required for carpools to travel the express toll lanes for free. The Flex Pass must be switched to HOV mode when carpooling to avoid being charged a toll.

How will toll revenue generated on I-405 be used?
Toll revenue collected on I-405 will first be used to maintain and operate the express toll lanes. Any additional revenues will be used for future I-405 corridor improvements.

Using express toll lanes

How will express toll lanes work?
Electronic signs above I-405 will post the toll currently being charged in the express toll lanes. The toll will vary based on how many drivers choose to use the express toll lanes. As more vehicles enter the lanes, tolls will increase to deter more drivers from entering the lanes so that traffic moves at least 45 miles per hour.

Drivers who choose to use the lanes will merge to the far left regular lane and can enter the express toll lanes at a segment of roadway with a designated dashed-line access point. The price posted upon entering the express toll lanes will be the price for the trip, even if there is a higher price posted down the road. For valid carpools, transit, motorcycles and registered vanpools with a pass, the trip will always be free.

Tolls will either be deducted from the driver’s Good To Go! account or we will send a bill, at a higher toll rate, to the registered vehicle owner.

How will I access the express toll lanes?
Express toll lanes will be accessed through designated access points. Failure to use access points will result in a $124 ticket for crossing the double white lines.

What is a "direct access ramp"?
There will be two direct access ramps to the I-405 express toll lanes that will allow drivers to directly enter the express toll lanes from surface streets without having to merge across the regular lanes. They are at Northeast 6th Street in Bellevue and Northeast 128th Street in Kirkland.

Will the express toll lanes be open to all vehicles at night?
A decision has not yet been made on this policy.

Paying for the express toll lanes

How will drivers pay the toll on the I-405 express toll lanes?
Like the SR 520 bridge tolls, tolls on I-405 will be collected electronically using Good To Go!. For vehicles without a Good To Go! account, the registered owner will be sent a bill in the mail at a higher toll rate. Motorcycles, valid carpools, transit and vanpools will not be charged a toll but must have a Good To Go! Flex Pass.

Important: Carpools will be required to have a new Flex Pass to travel for free. Drivers with any other type of Good To Go! pass (i.e. sticker, movable, switchable or license plate) will be charged a toll regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle.

How are the toll rates set?
A minimum and maximum toll rate may be set by the Washington State Transportation Commission. Toll rates on the roadway will automatically increase and decrease based on how many drivers choose to use the express toll lanes. The toll will increase when traffic in the express toll lanes is heavier and decrease when traffic is lighter, ensuring that express toll lane traffic moves at a minimum of 45 miles per hour.

How will I know what the express toll lane price is at a given time?
Electronic signs posted above the dashed-line access points will post the price currently being charged in the express toll lanes for up to three destinations. Drivers will pay the price displayed on the sign when they enter the lanes, even if the price changes after entry.

What happens if I’m a carpool and use the lanes without a pass?
All drivers using the lanes without a Good To Go! account will receive a bill in the mail at a higher toll rate. The system will only know that you are exempt from tolls if you indicate that you are a carpool using your Flex Pass.

Toll exemptions

Are there any toll exemptions on I-405?
WSDOT will work with the Washington State Transportation Commission to decide all exemptions for the I-405 express toll lanes as part of the commission's rate setting process. The commission will host public input meetings and welcome written comments throughout the toll rate setting process.

How many people will I need to have in my car to qualify as a carpool?
WSDOT will work with the Washington State Transportation Commission to decide all exemptions for the I-405 express toll lanes as part of the commission's rate setting process. The commission will host public input meetings and welcome written comments throughout the toll rate setting process.

The commission has given WSDOT direction that they are likely to pursue a policy that allows for free trips for carpools with three or more people during the peak hours and free trips for carpools of two or more people during the off-peak hours. These policies will be finalized as part of the commission’s rate setting process. Emergency vehicles on a bona fide emergency call will be allowed to use the lanes for free.

Will motorcycles be able to use the express toll lanes for free?
Yes, motorcycles will be allowed to use the lanes for free. Motorcyclists must have a pre-paid Good To Go! account and motorcycle pass to use the lanes for free.

What hours will be considered peak and off-peak?
The decision about peak and off-peak hours for carpools will be decided by WSDOT.