Major I-405 changes: Tolling now only 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Starting Friday, you'll be able to take the express toll lanes on I-405 for free on weekends and between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays.

The Washington State Transportation Commission unanimously approved the change on Tuesday, which was recommended by the Washington State Department of Transportation and followed an uproar from drivers and politicians in Olympia.

"We think this is a good approach," said Patty Rubstello, who directs WSDOT's toll division. "It keeps the express toll lanes available in those commute periods when people really need to get somewhere on time."

The changes take effect at 7 p.m. Friday, when the words "open to all" will appear on the signs that now display toll prices ranging from 75 cents to $10, depending on traffic.

You won't need a Good to Go pass to take the toll lanes for free in off hours.

But, you will still need to use designated access points or face a $136 fine for crossing the double white lines.

Direct-access ramps will be for HOVs only during off-hours.

The commission's removal of some tolling times comes after Governor Jay Inslee's announcement to changes on the interstate. 

However, the governor's changes related to how crashes are handled and how the express toll lanes are operated.

Here are transportation items Inslee discussed in mid-February.

1. Inslee announced more than a dozen improvements to be made to the I-405 express toll lanes to improve traffic flow and add capacity.

The Legislature approved the I-405 express toll lane program in 2011 to help manage growing traffic demands. The toll lanes opened in September 2015 and Inslee said the results so far are mixed.

Inslee's changes include new auxiliary lanes and hard running shoulders at key choke-points near SR 520 and SR 527, improved striping and signage, longer access points that make it easier for drivers to merge into the toll lanes, and improved algorithms to keep the toll lanes moving.

The 405 toll lanes, which allow drivers to pay a premium to get off crowded roads and enter the bus-carpool lane, have been the center to heated debate for months. High toll fares and congestion in the general public lanes continue to anger drivers.

The issue led, in part, to Senate Republicans firing the state's transportation direction, Lynn Peterson.

Washington state House Democrats released their proposed changes for 405 improvements in the start of February.

“The concerns of commuters have been heard loud and clear,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn, chair of the Transportation Committee. “These are real solutions to real problems, not knee-jerk proposals that would do more harm than good.”

Part of the 405 toll lane map. See full map here.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

Read what the proposed changes include here.

2. Inslee says he is requesting the Legislature approve 10 new “incident response teams” that can quickly help clear collisions and provide roadside assistance.

Inslee said in a news release: “IRTs have proven to be a cost-effective way of reducing congestion resulting from blocking collisions and disabled vehicles on the freeway.

Inslee proposed $10 million for the new IRTs in his supplemental transportation budget. 

3. Here's what WSDOT said last month:

Patty Rubstello, WSDOT’s Assistant Secretary for Tolling, said overall commute times have improved for drivers traveling the entire corridor, transit riders and certain segments of southbound drivers, but drivers traveling at the north end of the corridor, drivers making short trips and those traveling on weekends have seen longer travel times in the general purpose lanes.

 

4. Inslee also announced that WSDOT is scheduled to replace dozens of aging expansion joints along I-5 from Marysville to Federal Way.

You drive over them every time you’re on Interstate 5 – and when they break, they bring the city to a standstill. A KIRO 7 News investigation found dozens of expansion joints in poor condition. Read our report here.
© 2017 Cox Media Group.

WSDOT will replace 41 aging expansion joints on I-5 near Marysville this year and will begin to replace 12 expansion joints between Southcenter and Federal Way.

According to Inslee, this is a critical safety and maintenance issue that Inslee says cannot be delayed.

In a KIRO 7 investigation, we found dozens of expansion joints in poor condition on I-5 from Everett to Tacoma.

The state provided KIRO 7 with a list of all joints on I-5 from Everett to Tacoma. Sixty-six expansion joints are rated poor. In these 66 spots, there is the potential of similar incidents happening.

>> Click here to see if you're driving over an expansion joint in poor condition.

Expansion joints in poor condition are the most likely to break or be susceptible to problems, as gridlock in Seattle from expansion joint incidents showed in 2014 and 2015. Click here for our full report.