A new report provides a blueprint for speeding up travel along the I-405 and S.R. 167 corridors.
The I405/S.R. 167 Corridor Funding and Phasing Report, submitted by the Washington State Department of Transportation to the Legislature and the governor focuses on a two-phase approach for building express toll lanes on this 40-mile stretch of roadway, where commuters experience some of the state’s worst congestion, even in the carpool lanes.
“Express toll lanes are a crucial tool for dealing with our overloaded carpool lanes that can potentially fund other improvements along the corridor,” said Kim Henry, I-405/S.R. 167 program director. “The findings in this report will help us to move forward with these important projects.”
The first I-405 express toll lanes are scheduled to open in 2015 between Bellevue and Lynnwood. The second phase would extend the express toll lanes on I-405 between Renton and Bellevue, connecting them to the S.R. 167 HOT lanes.
The Legislature required a funding and phasing plan when it approved the I-405 express toll lanes in 2011. This report comes after several years of study and collaboration with an advisory group of local elected officials and regional transportation agencies representing communities along the I-405/S.R. 167 corridor. WSDOT held four meetings with this advisory group last year. Together, they reached consensus in two major areas:
- * Carpool rules for the first phase between Bellevue and Lynnwood: The advisory group recommends a transition option that would allow two-person carpools to ride free during off-peak hours and carpools of three or more people to ride free at all times. This option retains some benefits for all carpools while meeting the Legislature’s traffic requirements for performance (45 miles per hour, 90% of the time during peak travel periods) and revenue (cover costs within the two years of operations) of the express toll lanes. This recommendation will inform the Washington State Transportation Commission as it sets carpool and other tolling exemptions through a process expected to conclude this spring; and
- * Funding and phasing strategies for the second phase between Bellevue and Renton: This $1.175 billion project, which includes a new lane between Bellevue and Renton and direct connector ramps to link the future I-405 express toll lanes with the S.R. 167 HOT lanes, is largely unfunded. The advisory group recommends funding $960 million from the gas tax and other traditional sources, with funding for the remaining $215 million collected through toll-related sources.
Similar to S.R. 167 HOT lanes, the I-405 express toll lanes will offer drivers the option of paying a toll for a more reliable trip. Because toll rates vary based on congestion levels, WSDOT can more closely manage demand for the express toll lanes, improving traffic flow along the entire roadway. Transit and registered vanpools will travel toll-free in the lanes.
The full report—along with previous studies that contributed to it—is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/eastsidecorridor/report.