WSDOT says drivers save more time when I-405 toll increases

MILL CREEK, Wash. – At the end of September the express toll lanes on Interstate-405 will turn two years old.

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently crunched the numbers and the agency says they found out the higher tolls you pay ends up saving you more time behind the wheel.

Plus, on average, drivers are paying less than $4 and save at least 10 minutes during commutes.

The purpose of the express toll lanes, says WSDOT, is to give drivers a choice. But depending on the time of day and where you’re driving, the general purpose lanes are either a bit faster or about as congested as it was two years ago.

It’s hard to believe drivers on the east side have been living with the I-405 express toll lanes for nearly two years.

“I don’t feel like we should have to pay so much to get to work on time,” said commuter Emily Chavez.

“You know you gulp a little,” said driver David Smith. “But if it’s necessary, I use it.”

Now that the express toll lane’s anniversary is near, WSDOT has shared data the agency says proves commutes for thousands of drivers are improving.

A graphic from the transportation agency shows when drivers pay increasingly higher tolls they actually begin saving more time stuck in traffic.

“As toll rates go up you save more time pretty consistently,” said WSDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson. “The average person is paying a toll of about $3, saving about 10-15 minutes in the toll lanes.”

But when the toll hits a peak of $10 and drivers still have to hit the brakes in the express lanes, WSDOT says in some places they allow up to 30% more cars to pass through than the general purpose lanes.

“For most people that’s not worth it for a trip everyday unless you’re really in a hurry,” said Bergerson.

Still, nearly two years later, some drivers are having a tough time believing the express lanes are worth the cost.

“You don’t want to be late every day and then traffic is so horrible so you just pay it,” said Chavez.

But others say the lanes offer an alternative to what once was one of Washington state’s most congested bottlenecks.

“If I’m going south on I-405 and I can use the toll lanes, I do, if I’m in a hurry especially if I’m going to the airport or an appointment down in the Tukwila area,” said Smith.

The money that’s raised from I-405 express lanes are required by law to go back into congestion improvements the interstate.

WSDOT says the new peak-use shoulder lane between Bothell and Lynnwood has cut down on backups across all northbound lanes. That project was paid for with money raised from I-405 tolls.