Future uncertain for I-405 toll lanes

KIRKLAND, Wash. — The I-405 express toll lanes turn 2 years old on Wednesday, but whether they last through a third year will be up to state lawmakers.

In 2015, when the express toll lanes running between Bellevue and Lynnwood opened, there were two benchmarks state officials needed to meet to keep the lanes in place.

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One was that the toll lanes make money. The second requirement is that cars in the toll lanes need to be moving at least 45 mph, 90 percent of the time.

Two years later, data shows they succeeded in one benchmark but not the other.

Data shows cars are only going that speed 81 percent of the time, mainly because there are more cars in the lanes than expected.

But the lanes are making money.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said they have made $39 million in the first 18 months - that's $25 million more than the cost to operate.

But the bottom line is state officials say the toll lanes are working well enough that they should keep operating.

"We know we are meeting the revenue generation target. I think that’s a great thing, and we're also performing really well, particularly in the northbound direction,” said Ed Barry with WSDOT.

Critics say it's not worth the extra money people have to pay for tolls.

“The fact that we are not meeting the goal says right there what we've been saying since day one. These aren't going to make things better,” said David Hablewitz with Stop405Tolls.

State lawmakers are set to make a decision on whether to keep the toll lanes going when they reconvene for their session in January.