• Researchers: I-405 toll lanes need to cost more, increase in price faster

    By: John Knicely


    The I-405 toll lanes are bringing in enough money, but traffic is so slow in the express lanes the tolls need to be higher.  

    Those are some of the findings University of Minnesota researchers presented to the State Transportation Commission on Wednesday.

    They also suggested the toll rates need to change faster and increase or decrease while you drive the 15-mile stretch as volumes change.

    “The one thing we know is the $10 cap is too low,” Researcher Matt Schmit said.

    The $10 maximum toll rate is being hit 15 percent of the time on average and recently up to 25 percent of the time. The suggestion is to bump up the max toll at least $5.

    Drivers KIRO 7 spoke with scoffed at the idea.

    “Going above $10 is a little aggressive,” Kimia Talajour said. “And it will scare away even more people from using it.”

    But that’s the point. Researchers say it needs to be high enough so fewer people use the toll lanes.

    Therefore, toll traffic will move faster. There was no consensus on how high the maximum rate should go, but commissioners also pointed to I-66 in Washington D.C. which recently took away toll limits.

    Another issue pointed out is that the toll rate changes every five minutes.

    “So as the congestion mounts,” Schmit said. “The tolling algorithm isn't anticipating or responding to that change in volume.”

    The suggestion is to have it change every minute or two.  They also suggested adding points along the toll lanes to get in and out as the rates change.  

    Currently, once you're in, you're in. The idea is the rate would change at each access point. So, the rate you pay could go up or down every few miles as congestion warrants, and you'd have a chance to get out of the toll lanes.

    The commission suggested some changes could be done in a matter of months and others could take years.  

    KIRO 7 will stay on top of it.


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