If you live in the Puget Sound region, and haven’t been on vacation over the last month, you‘ve likely heard a lot of information about the new I-405 express toll lanes. And, as you can imagine, we have heard a lot from drivers.
We’ve heard positive stories from folks praising the reliability of the new system, how it cut their car and transit commutes in half and they get to spend more time with their families. We also know it’s been a big change and we’ve heard a lot of comments about shifting congestion, confusion about the double white lines and long wait times for customer service.
We’ve taken to Twitter, Facebook, this blog and the media to try and help answer your questions, and here are the Top 5 that keep coming up.
1. We paid gas tax for this road, how can you ask us to pay again?
Yes, the lanes on I-405 have been built with federal and state gas taxes over the years. It’s also true that communities around I-405 are experiencing growth, causing some of the worst congestion in the state. Beyond the cost to build and expand the highway, new improvements are necessary to support this growth and reduce congestion. Before express toll lanes, the HOV lane was at capacity during peak periods, with speeds falling below 45 mph on 200 or more days a year. Express toll lanes are a sustainable solution to maintain reliability on the roadway over time. You don’t have to pay the toll; using the express lanes is an option when you really need it.
2. Why not just build new regular lanes?
We know from our experience here in Washington and from other states facing similar challenges, we cannot simply expand the roadway to solve congestion. Studies show that, time and time again, the new lanes eventually fill up when the population grows. What happens then? Is the answer to keep building more and more lanes? We need to invite and accept creative solutions to help manage the growing demand on our roadways. Over the last decade, we’ve explored and implemented a range of solutions to help with the growing congestion on I-405 including adding more regular lanes, improvements to local roads, increasing transit service, adding park and ride spaces and vanpools, and operating express toll lanes. After years of study, we found that express toll lanes could move 30 percent more vehicles and people compared to building a regular lane. They also offer drivers a choice for a reliable trip whenever they need it.
3. How does changing the carpool requirement to 3+ during peak hours help reduce traffic?
The Washington State Transportation Commission made this change because the 2+ carpool lanes were breaking down at peak times, not meeting state requirements to move traffic at 45 mph 90 percent of the time. Buses, vanpools and carpools were often stuck in the same congestion as folks in the regular lanes, receiving little to no benefit from the carpool lanes. The change to a 3+ peak requirement brought the benefit and reliability back to those lanes, and with express toll lanes, folks with less than three passengers can benefit from the additional capacity for a price. During off-peak times and weekends, vehicles with a Flex Pass in HOV mode can ride free with two passengers.
4. Is WSDOT only operating express toll lanes for the money?
Any revenue generated beyond operating costs will go in a dedicated account for I-405 and will be reinvested back into the corridor. The whole point of the express toll lanes is to create a new reliable option for drivers. Without express toll lanes, the highway would only become more congested over time. New general purpose lanes would fill up and the reliability would be gone. Some drivers might choose to use the express toll lanes every day, but most will use them when they need them for a variety of reasons that are personal to those hundreds of thousands of individuals.
5. Why is 75 percent of the toll revenue going to a company in Texas?
This has come up frequently over the past few months, and it’s false. We’d like to give you a breakdown of the costs.
On average, 54 cents of a Good To Go! toll paid on I-405 goes toward toll collection.
- Customer Service Center operations and billing operations receives 20 cents of those 54 cents. Both services are provided by a vendor from Richardson, Texas. They employ more than 120 people in the greater Seattle area. Their compensation is independent of traffic or toll rate levels, meaning they get the same amount no matter what the toll rate is or how much congestion there is.
- The Roadway Toll System operations and maintenance team receives 15 cents from every toll. This service is provided by a vendor from Rockville, Maryland. They have a core staff of six in the greater Seattle area. Their compensation is also independent of traffic or toll rate levels.
- State Operations and credit card processing receives 19 cents. This includes our staff costs, consulting support, and staff related costs such as rent, phones and computers, data collection tools, software and office supplies.
|The remainder of the toll (dark green area) goes toward other costs including enforcement, transponders, and a dedicated fund for future I-405 improvements as approved by the state legislature.|