Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on I-405 on Feb. 16 in Bothell. Reading the signs remains a point of confusion for many drivers. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on I-405 on Feb. 16 in Bothell. Reading the signs remains a point of confusion for many drivers. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A quick-reference guide to the I-405 express toll lanes

Tolls have been collected on I-405 for nearly a year now.

I no longer get asked, “Do I have to pay to drive on I-405 now?”

Still, I continue to get an array of questions about how the express toll lanes work.

“Don’t I need a pass to use them?”

“How much do I pay? Do I add?”

“I don’t trust that ‘Open to All’ thing.”

“What double white lines?”

Unless you’re a I-405 commuter, chances are you’ve asked one of those questions, too.

So here is our Back to Driving School “Quick Reference Guide to Using the I-405 Express Toll Lanes.” (The long name is roughly analogous to the amount of words it takes to explain them.)

What are the I-405 express toll lanes?

The I-405 express toll lanes replaced the carpool lane from the junction with I-5 in Lynnwood to NE Sixth Street in Bellevue, a distance of about 17 miles. South of Highway 522, the state also added an additional lane for two express toll lanes.

What about carpools?

Carpools can still use the lanes toll-free, but only if they have the required number of occupants (three or more during peak times), a Good To Go account, and a Flex Pass. Peak times are 5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. weekdays.

Who else goes toll-free?

Transit, registered vanpools, and motorcycles with a Good To Go account and free motorcycle pass.

What’s a Good To Go account?

A Good To Go account identifies your vehicle to tolling equipment, which then charges (or doesn’t charge) your account. You need $30 to open an account. Accounts must be refilled once they hit an $8 balance. The minimum refill is $30.

What’s a Flex Pass?

A Flex Pass is for those who plan to use the lanes toll-free as a carpool. There is a toggle switch for when you qualify for the toll-free rate (HOV) and for when you don’t (TOLL). Those who carpool on the corridor at least once a week can apply for a free Flex Pass. Otherwise a Flex Pass costs $15.

Are there other passes?

There is a sticker pass ($5) for toll-paying drivers. Cars with windshields that don’t work with sticker or Flex passes can use a license plate pass ($12).

Unregistered pass accounts are available for those who don’t want to share any personal information.

Do I need a pass?

Passes are required to pay the posted toll rate. But you don’t need a pass to use the lanes.

Do nothing, drive in the lanes and you’ll pay an extra $2 on top of the posted toll rate. Cameras capture your license plate. You’ll get a bill in the mail.

You also can skip the pass, but still sign up for a Good To Go account and register your vehicle (pay by plate account), and pay 25 cents above the posted toll rate.

There also are short-term accounts for visitors and rental car drivers.

How much are the tolls?

Tolls vary with congestion and the distance you plan to drive in the lanes. Typically, the higher the toll, the greater the congestion. The minimum toll is 75 cents. Posted toll rates are capped at $10. (Again, add $2 or 25 cents if you opt to skip a Good To Go account or pass.)

You can check toll rates online before you leave; but keep in mind they can change before you reach them.

Why are there 3 toll rates?

Signs post toll rates for three segments of the corridor. You do not add up these rates. If you are going to the end of the toll lanes, for example, you pay only the last posted rate on the sign.

Southbound zones differ from northbound zones.

Heading I-405 south:

Northern zone exits are at NE 195th Street, Highway 522, NE 160th Street, NE 124th Street, and NE 128th Street

Central zone exits are at NE 85th Street and NE 70th Place.

Southern zone exits are at Highway 520, NE 8th Street, NE Fourth Street, NE Sixth Street and the end of the toll lanes as you enter or exit Bellevue.

Heading I-405 north:

Southern zone exits are at NE 70th Place, NE 85th Street, NE 116th Street and NE 124th Street.

Central zone exits are at NE 128th Street, NE 160th Street, Highway 522 and NE 195th Street.

Northern zone exits are at Highway 527 and the end of the toll lanes at the junction with I-5 and Highway 525.

Find an interactive map at www.wsdot.wa.gov/tolling/405/map.

What if the toll changes?

The posted rate when you enter the lanes is the toll that you pay, even if it goes up (or down) while you are in them. Same for carpool rules.

What do I get in return?

An increased likelihood of going at least 45 mph.

How do I get in and out of the lanes?

Entry to the toll lanes is only allowed at designated access points, typically marked by dashed white lines. Same for getting out of them — so know which toll lane exit you need to reach your I-405 exit. Follow lane markings to merge into and out of the lanes.

Alternatively, use direct-access ramps, which spit you straight into and out of both the toll lanes and I-405, at NE 128th Street in Kirkland and NE Sixth Street in Bellevue.

At either end, the lanes convert back to HOV lanes with traditional two-person carpool rules. If you are a single-occupant driver, you’ll need to move right.

Can I cross the double-white lines?

Not unless directed by authorities.

It is illegal to cross double white lines, including those that restrict access to the toll lanes. The ticket for crossing them is $136.

What does “Open to All” mean?

When the lanes first opened, tolls were in effect 24/7. Following recent legislation, the toll lanes are now open to all drivers at nights (after 7 p.m.), on Saturdays and Sundays, and on major holidays (New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day).

“Open to All” includes single-occupant drivers. No accounts or passes are required. You will not be sent a bill.

One caveat: The two direct-access ramps are still restricted to transit and two-person carpools when the lanes are “Open to All.”

Who can’t use the toll lanes?

Vehicles over 10,000 gross vehicle weight, except RVs.

What about trailers?

If a vehicle-and-trailer combo is at or under 10,000 gross vehicle weight, it can use the lanes like any other vehicle. But, as always, keep right except to pass.

More info

GoodToGo405.com

www.heraldnet.com/search (search “I-405 toll lanes” without the quotation marks)

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