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Valley Freeway lanes turn HOT

Weekday commuters received their first taste of the Valley Freeway’s 167 HOT lanes on Monday.

Washington state’s first high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes officially opened last Saturday. The system responded well to live traffic, despite wet pavement, police activity, typical fender benders and I-405 construction closures. On Sunday, conditions were more benign, with sunny weather, light traffic, and just one collision.

Traffic moved smoothly Monday morning along the car-pool lane of State Route 167 between Auburn and Renton, where solo drivers can buy their way in by paying a variable toll.

About 120 drivers paid to enter the northbound lane in light traffic between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The tolls, which increase as traffic builds, reached $2.25, northbound at 277th Street at 7:15 a.m.

The HOT lane is built to accommodate as many as 600 solo motorists in rush hour, but the current demand is far from that capacity.

With HOT lanes a variable toll increases or decreases with the level of congestion to ensure that traffic in the HOT lane always flows freely.

WSDOT reminds all drivers, including HOVs and transit, they must enter or exit the HOT lanes at six northbound and four southbound access zones indicated by signs and a dashed white stripe. If drivers cross the double white stripe, they risk a $124 ticket.

With HOT lanes there are no toll booths. The tolls are collected by the same Good To Go! transponders currently in use on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Carpools carrying two people or more, vanpools, buses and motorcycles can use the HOT lanes toll-free and do not need a transponder.

During the four-year pilot period, WSDOT will closely monitor and adjust the system to achieve its best performance. The department will report evaluation data to the state Legislature and the Washington State Transportation Commission.

City holds Tobacco Prevention Fairs

The use of tobacco is fraught with 1,000 well-known perils, and traps to snare the next generation of addicts lie hidden everywhere, ready to snap shut on the unsuspecting.

Staff in the Auburn’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Department say the key for the young folks is to get the right message to them as early as possible, before Joe Camel and peer pressure cloud their judgement with rolling clouds of tar.

That’s the idea behind the Tobacco Prevention Fair, an annual event aimed at every sixth-grade student in the Auburn School District.

This year’s fairs began Monday at Rainier Middle School. They continue today from 9:45 a.m. to noon at Cascade Middle School, 1015 24th St. N.E, and Friday from

7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. at

Mt. Baker Middle School, 620 37th St. S.E.

Each fair lasts from 60 to 90 minutes, and the sessions are tailored to 20 to 30 students. Volunteers work in teams of two, taking students through a number of activities to teach them about the dangers of tobacco use.

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