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I-405, SR 167 express toll lanes focus of advisory group

 

A focus group of 30 local elected officials and transportation agency representatives has begun discussions of how to fund and operate express toll lanes on Interstate 405 and State Route 167. The first meeting was Thursday in Bellevue, but after The Reporter's deadline.

“This group has played a valuable advisory role since 1999 on our work to improve I-405 safety and mobility,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond in a news release prior to the meeting. “Together, we will improve traffic flow by using express toll lanes in a manner that fits with the needs of the communities along this corridor.”

The group also will advise the Washington State Department of Transportation and Legislature on carpool exemptions, hours of operation, project timing, and funding for express toll lanes along the full 40-mile I-405/SR 167 corridor. A funding and phasing plan will be delivered to the governor and Legislature by June 2013.

The Eastside Corridor is the only north-south freeway alternative to I-5 in the Puget Sound region. It is made up of sections of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, stretching down I-405 and SR 167 to SR 512.

WSDOT has looked at a range of options for transportation improvement to address the projected increase in population and employment along this corridor. Examples are the I-405 Corridor Master Plan (2002) and the SR 167 Valley Freeway Plan (2009). Both plans noted the importance of connecting I-405 and SR 167 to form a seamless corridor, and together they form the basis for the I-405/SR 167 Corridor vision.

State officials say express toll lanes give solo drivers the option to use carpool lanes by paying an electronic toll. Similar to SR 167, the express toll lanes on I-405 will operate as an expressway within a freeway while allowing toll-free trips for transit and vanpools.

The first phase of I-405 express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood is under construction and will open to traffic in 2015.

The I-405/SR 167 Corridor vision includes new highway lanes, improved interchanges, express toll lanes, expanded transit service including bus rapid transit (BRT) and expanded vanpool programs. Other features, such as the SR 167 Express Toll Lanes Pilot Project and SR 167 extension in Pierce County, will connect the entire corridor with a system better equipped to manage traffic demands in the future, state officials say.

State officials say the benefits of express toll lanes are:

. Operate efficiently, moving more people and offering a more reliable trip.

. Manage demand to improve speed and reliability.

. Strategically add capacity to increase throughput.

. Reduce congestion, improving mobility for transit, freight, and drivers in all lanes.

. Generate revenue by charging a user fee for non-carpool vehicles to use the express toll lanes. Revenue could help fund future corridor improvements, such as on I-405 from Renton to Bellevue and at the SR 167/I-405 interchange.

In all, the toll lane advisory group will hold four working meetings in the first half of 2013. Information about future meetings and meeting minutes and materials will be available at wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/eastsidecorridor.

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