The 3/27 Bellevue Reporter front-page article, “Commission approves I-405 express tolls”, is just the latest example of WSDOT mendacity when it comes to dealing with the area’s transportation problems. While they pawn off direct responsibility, the WSTC was obviously doing so at the behest of the WSDOT.
First of all, the whole idea that an HOV lane increases capacity is absurd unless it is used to accommodate a large numbers of buses. For example buses use the two I-5 HOV lanes to accommodate 14 million riders annually or 44% of commuters. It makes no sense to restrict a highway lane to facilitate bus service that currently consists of Sound Transit’s ST535 between Lynnwood and Bellevue every 30 minutes.
Car pool benefits don’t have to include HOV access. I did so for years (before HOV) as a Boeing employee commuting between Bellevue and Everett, and the Development Center in Seattle. The economic benefits don’t disappear without HOV and the vast majority of commuters apparently unable or unwilling to car pool would benefit by having access to all the lanes.
The WSTC claim “A two-lane express toll lane system both ways from Northeast Sixth Street to State Route 522 is expected to add capacity on I-405 when it comes on line, as is a one-lane system both ways between ST 522 and I-5 in Lynnwood” is totally absurd. The fact they require 3+ for HOV lanes simply adds to the absurdity. Again, unless ST dramatically increases bus routes, the way to increase capacity is to allow everyone to use all the lanes.
Rather than increasing capacity the WSDOT is attempting to use the added lanes as a revenue source. (It's not clear what gave them the authority to add tolls to an existing interstate highway.) The article claims the average tolls will be between 75 cents and $4 increasing to $10 as a maximum for congestion expected only 10% of the travel days. They predict tolls for “seventy-seven percent of the trips are expected to be below $1.00”.
Yet the WSDOT in the same article reports “I-405 experiences up to eight hours of congestion daily, amounting to one of the worst traffic situations in the state”. How is it possible that maximum congestion is expected only “10% of the travel days” and “seventy seven percent of the trips won’t occur during the eight hours of congestion”. Even these absurdities are topped by the claim “All lanes of I-405 will be able to go 45 mph or faster once the express lanes open this fall”.
Again, the tolling debacle is just the latest example of WSDOT mendacity in dealing with the area’s transportation.