The Bellevue Reporter, 12/25/15 edition, front-page article “More than 26,000 residents sign petition against tolls” should be no surprise. It doesn’t take much "foresight" to anticipate increasing +2HOV to +3HOV during peak commute would make it more difficult for commuters to use car pool lanes. It also doesn’t take much “foresight” to anticipate those no longer able to car pool would object to paying up to $10.00 tolls to avoid the resulting increased congestion in the regular lanes.
The fact the WSDOT promoted HOT as the way to reduce I-405 congestion for everyone “suggests” they were either incompetent or mendacious, believing the toll revenue was worth incurring the wrath of commuters. They also assumed, apparently correctly, that the Seattle Times would ignore the commuter outrage as typified by Danny Westneat’s column suggesting WSDOT increase the tolls beyond $10 limits to assure faster commutes for those willing to pay.
The fact WSDOT spent $484 million to initiate tolls they anticipated would net them $1 million the first year presumably reflects hopes for much higher revenue in the future due to ever increasing regular lane congestion to recover their original investment, let alone make a profit.
The WSDOT has already announced plans to spend an additional $1 billion extending HOT lanes to Renton apparently believing the current commuter outrage will inevitably be replaced by reluctant acceptance of tolls to facilitate their commute. Federal Way-to-Bellevue 7:30 AM morning commutes already average 74 minutes with most of the delay between Renton and Bellevue. The increased congestion with the +3 HOV requirement will likely make HOT even more “lucrative” on this route.
The only “fly in the ointment” for I-405 HOT would be Sound Transit’s ST3 proposal for BRT along the route. Direct bus service between Everett, Lynnwood, and Federal Way to Bellevue and Overlake T/Cs, could give commuters the option of replacing tolls with far less expensive bus fares. However, the fact the ST3 proposal makes no mention of the need for additional parking for access to the bus routes indicates their BRT proposal is primarily to garner support for ST3. BRT on I-405 is something ST could have done 15 years ago.
ST “reluctance” for I-405 BRT is “balanced” by WSDOT acceptance of ST 2008 DEIS claim adding the 4th lanes to the outer roadways will provide “Travel times across I-90 for vehicles and trucks would also improve or remain similar with East Link”. The WSDOT lawyers were the ones who convinced a federal judge in the Freeman litigation opposing light rail on I-90 Bridge center roadway the R-8A configuration, which added the 4th lanes to the outer roadways for HOV, could make up for the loss of the two center roadway lanes.
Their lawyers simply ignored the FHWA September 2004 ROD, “I-90 Two-Way Transit and Operations Project” that stipulated the R-8A configuration they approved maintain the two center roadway lanes for vehicles. The current 7:30 AM, 68-minute average commute times on the southbound I-5 express lanes between Everett and Seattle are a clear indication of HOV lane problems.
Yet the WSDOT refuses to require ST demonstrate the modified outer roadways can accommodate all cross-lake vehicles before they allow ST closing the center roadway in 2017; something the WSDOT could easily do by temporarily closing the center roadway after ST opened the 4th lanes to vehicles. (Something ST could have also done 15 years ago to ease congestion for commuters from both sides of the lake.)
The most likely result of this ST/WSDOT “partnership” is dramatically increased congestion on I-90 outer roadway in 2017; a probable prelude to HOT lanes there.