Valley Freeway to make way for HOT lanes

Several miles of the Valley Freeway will turn HOT on Saturday.

Several miles of the Valley Freeway will turn HOT on Saturday.

Washington’s first-ever high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes will begin offering solo drivers a new choice for their commute on State Route 167. It is all part of a pilot project that will assess how variable tolling can help make the state’s roadways more efficient and less congested.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is converting nine miles of a pre-existing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction of the Valley Freeway between Renton 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.

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.

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.

“The HOT lanes project is just one example of several new transportation innovations that WSDOT is investigating as tools to make our highways more efficient in moving more people,” said Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

The HOT lanes 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.

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