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National experts support express toll lanes on I-405/SR 167 corridor

Experts says express toll lanes will help reduce overall congestion while generate revenue for future corridor improvements – similar to the SR 167 high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes between Auburn and Renton (pictured).  - Reporter file photo
Experts says express toll lanes will help reduce overall congestion while generate revenue for future corridor improvements – similar to the SR 167 high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes between Auburn and Renton (pictured).
— image credit: Reporter file photo

A proposed express toll lane system is a viable and appropriate strategy for improving mobility in the Interstate 405 and State Route 167 corridor, according to a report by national tolling experts sent today to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

“We found that WSDOT’s study of a proposed I-405/SR 167 corridor express toll lane system is a sound strategy to reduce congestion and generate revenue for planned improvements within the corridor,” said Ginger Goodin of Texas Transportation Institute and chair of the Expert Review Panel.

The panel’s report, along with WSDOT’s study, is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/eastsidecorridor/report.

“We appreciate the panel’s thorough review of our proposed express toll lane strategy between Lynnwood and Puyallup,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “Based on this review, we will pursue legislative authorization to implement express toll lanes on I-405, which will enable us to continue fixing one of the most congested corridors in the state.”

Express toll lanes give solo drivers the option to use carpool lanes by paying an electronic toll to avoid congestion. Similar to the SR 167 high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes between Auburn and Renton, express toll lanes help reduce overall congestion while generating revenue for future corridor improvements. Toll rates automatically adjust to ensure traffic in the toll lane is free-flowing even when the general purpose lanes are congested. This system of express toll lanes is part of the state’s congestion relief program Moving Washington, which works to operate our highways more efficiently and better manage traffic demand.

Here are the findings of the I-405/SR 167 expert review panel:

• Policy: The proposed express toll lane concept is a viable and appropriate strategy for improving mobility in the I-405/SR 167 corridor and is consistent with regional, state, and federal policies.

• Methodology: WSDOT used sound planning and engineering practices consistent with industry standards to analyze the operational performance of I-405/SR 167 corridor express toll lanes.

• Phasing: Building an express toll lane system from Bellevue to Lynnwood as a first step to implement a complete 40-mile system makes sense as a corridor-wide solution that fits within the I-405 Master Plan.

• Financing: WSDOT’s I-405/SR 167 Eastside Corridor Tolling Study financial assumptions, methods and forecasts are valid.

• Funding: Moving forward with building a new lane from Bellevue to Lynnwood and pairing it with the existing HOV lane to create an express toll system provides necessary momentum and helps fill the funding gap for future corridor improvements between Renton and Bellevue.

• Next steps: The panel recommends moving forward with the funded Bellevue to Lynnwood project and completing a more detailed traffic and revenue study for financing future improvements, which include a direct connection to the SR 167 HOT lanes and an express toll lane system between Renton and Bellevue.

WSDOT completed the I-405/SR 167 Eastside Corridor Tolling study, which looked at converting the existing I-405 HOV lane to an express toll lane and building a new lane for a two-lane express toll system on I-405 and connecting it to the SR 167 HOT lanes. The report was delivered to the Legislature in January 2010.

Panel participants represented five different areas of transportation expertise, including academics, policy, planning, operations and finance. Panel members included:

• Academic: Ginger Goodin from the Texas Transportation Institute of the Texas A&M University System

• Transportation Policy: Robert Poole, independent transportation consultant

• Transportation Planning: Chuck Fuhs with Parson Brinckerhoff in Houston

• Express Toll Operations: Jennifer Tsien, working with the Florida Turnpike Enterprise

• Financing: Janet Lee of Public Resource Advisory Group

The panel met three times beginning in September and shared its progress with elected officials from the I-405/SR 167 corridor. The final report addresses four areas of interest, including policy, methodology, phasing and finances.

More information on the expert review panel process can be found on the I-405/SR 167 Corridor tolling web page at: www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/eastsidecorridor.

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