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WSDOT report: HOT lanes along Auburn paying off

Valley Freeway HOT lanes revenue exceeded expenditures by $12,000 in the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year. The four-year pilot project, which began May 3, 2008, was established to study how variably-priced, electronic tolling can ease traffic congestion on SR 167 – a nine-mile stretch between Auburn to Renton.  - Reporter file photo
Valley Freeway HOT lanes revenue exceeded expenditures by $12,000 in the fourth quarter of the current fiscal year. The four-year pilot project, which began May 3, 2008, was established to study how variably-priced, electronic tolling can ease traffic congestion on SR 167 – a nine-mile stretch between Auburn to Renton.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

The HOT Lanes on State Route 167 have accelerated into the black, according to the latest performance summary released Tuesday by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

According to the report, Valley Freeway HOT lanes revenue exceeded expenditures by $12,000 in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011 – April through June. Recent data shows the trend continuing from July through September with a surplus of $10,000.

All revenue generated by SR 167 HOT lanes is reinvested in the SR 167 corridor.

"We've already confirmed that the SR 167 HOT lanes are doing what they were designed to do: reduce congestion and improve travel times for everyone traveling on this corridor," said Craig Stone, WSDOT toll division director. "Revenue covering the HOT lanes operational cost is frosting on the cake – it's a great achievement as we enter the fourth year of the pilot program."

The four-year pilot project, which began May 3, 2008, was established to study how variably-priced, electronic tolling can ease traffic congestion on SR 167 – a nine-mile stretch between Auburn to Renton. Solo drivers with a Good To Go! transponder were offered the choice to pay for a faster trip in the carpool lane when extra space was available.

The result, as WSDOT reports, is improved speeds for general-purpose lane drivers, more reliable commute times for paying solo drivers and continued priority service at no charge for transit and carpools.

"The once underused SR 167 HOV lanes are now a workhorse," Stone said. "Since opening the SR 167 HOT lanes in 2008, we've seen a 200 percent increase in drivers choosing to pay for a more reliable trip."

Approximately 90,000 unique Good To Go! passes have been used to pay for the SR 167 HOT lanes since they opened. Revenue also has increased by 88 percent since HOT lanes opened in 2008.

WSDOT developed the annual summary to report data on performance areas outlined by the Legislature. In addition to revenue and operating costs, the summary provides information on SR 167 HOT lanes safety, freeway efficiency and customer service. Other findings from the report include:

Since opening the HOT lanes, peak-period traffic in all lanes moves more efficiently:

• On average, general purpose lane daily volumes have decreased by 4 to 5 percent while speeds have increased by 8 percent

• On average, daily HOT lane volumes have increased by 15 percent while speeds have remained at approximately 60 mph

• During the weekday morning peak-hour travel, northbound HOT lanes drivers saved an average of nine minutes and paid an average toll of $1.75.

SR 167 HOT lanes survey shows strong support among business customers

• Nearly 60 percent of business customers considered the HOT lanes helpful for their business.

• More than 50 percent of surveyed business customers were interested in connecting SR 167 HOT lanes to the future I-405 express toll lanes

The full annual report and more information about the project is available online.

What's next?

WSDOT continues to learn from the project and make adjustments to improve HOT lane signage and operations. The department will extend HOT lanes south to 8th Street East if the legislature authorizes tolling to continue on SR 167 past the four-year pilot period.

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