Not so HOT: Weather delays debut of pilot project lanes

A stretch of the Valley Freeway between Auburn and Renton soon will open as the state’s first high-occupancy toll lanes. - Gary Kissel/Reporter
A stretch of the Valley Freeway between Auburn and Renton soon will open as the state’s first high-occupancy toll lanes.
— image credit: Gary Kissel/Reporter

Perhaps Mother Nature has a sense of humor. An atypically cold and wet spring means solo drivers will have to wait another week to use the new high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on State Route 167 between Auburn and Renton.

The Washington Department of Transportation pushed back the debut one week, from April 26 to May 3.

Work to add a second white stripe to separate the HOT lanes from the general purpose lanes was supposed to start on April 12, but the weather has kept striping crews on the sidelines.

“I want to make sure that drivers have at least a week to get accustomed to the new striping before we open the HOT lanes,” said Craig Stone, WSDOT urban corridors administrator.

“This is a four-year pilot project. It’s more important that we get it done right than get it done fast.”

Washington State Patrol will enforce the law against crossing the double-white lines as soon as the second stripe is placed. This means drivers must enter or exit the carpool lanes at six northbound and four southbound access zones that will be indicated by new signs and dashed striping.

Striping is just one of many tasks WSDOT must complete before the lanes open. Engineers are fine-tuning the HOT lanes tolling system hardware and software, using test vehicles and testing the electronic toll-rate signs.

WSDOT is converting nine miles of a pre-existing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction of the Valley Freeway between Auburn and Auburn to a single HOT lane.

With HOT lanes, drivers will have the choice to pay an electronic toll without ever slowing or stopping and escape traffic backups.

There will be no toll booths. The toll will be collected by the same Good To Go! transponders currently in use on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Carpools carrying two people or more, vanpools, transit and motorcycles will continue to use the HOT lanes toll-free and do not need a transponder.

The HOT lanes actually will cover 12 miles in the northbound lanes, from 15th Street Southwest in Auburn to I-405 in Renton.

There are six onramps to the highway in the tolled northbound lanes.

There are nine miles of HOT lanes southbound, from I-405 to about South 288th Street. There are four entrances to the highway in the tolled southbound lanes.

Tolls will range from 50 cents to $9, generally between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. The tolling system will be turned off the rest of the day unless traffic congestion persists after 7 p.m., according to DOT.

The toll will fluctuate with the traffic levels. The heavier the traffic, the higher the toll. The amount of the toll will be flashing on reader boards at highway onramps.

To open a Good To Go! account and obtain a transponder, log on to and fill out an electronic application form, or call customer service at


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