Express lanes - Common questions

Why are the I-5 express lanes closed at night?

Communities around the Ship Canal Bridge asked WSDOT to reduce the neighborhood noise by closing the express lanes at night. WSDOT studies showed that this would decrease noise levels by seven to ten decibels, without causing traffic congestion.

Studies also showed that the best time to close the express lanes is 11:00 p.m. because most events are over by 10:00 p.m.

We monitor special event schedules. On occasions when major events run later than 11 p.m., traffic engineers typically keep the express lanes open to help move traffic quickly


Why are the express lane schedules not adjusted for workday evening events?

On some workday evenings, sports events and concerts bring large amounts of traffic into Seattle while commuters are leaving the city. Our traffic data shows that the number of commuters leaving Seattle on a typical workday exceeds the number of sports and music fans coming into the city for even the biggest events. We use express lanes to keep the largest possible number of people moving. As a result, they typically carry traffic out of the city on workday evenings even when big events are scheduled.


Why do the express lane schedules sometimes change without advanced notice?

In the event of an accident or the need for emergency maintenance or repairs, express lane schedules may change without advance notice. Regardless, highway signs and gates clearly indicate whether or not the lanes are open.


Does it cost money to use the express lanes?

No, it does not cost money to use the express lanes. They are free to all users.


Why are there double white lines on northbound I-5 approaching the entrance to the northbound express lanes?

In 2018, crews added double white lines to the left lane of northbound I-5 about 1,700 feet prior to the express lanes entrance. This moved the decision point farther back, eliminating last-minute lane changes in order to improve safety and keep traffic moving smoothly. It is now illegal to move in or out of the left lane near the express lanes entrance.


Is flammable cargo permitted to travel in the express lanes?

Flammable cargo may not be transported through the express lanes. Trucks carrying such cargo must instead travel on the mainline. Unlike mainline I-5, the section of the express lanes passing beneath the Washington State Convention Center is not equipped with fire and life safety systems. More information about this restriction can be found in Washington Administrative Code 468-38-175.