Legislation would change how new I-405 toll lanes are used

BOTHELL — Frustration with the new express lanes on I-405 spilled into the political arena Wednesday with two Republican lawmakers saying they want to reduce the number of toll lanes and let all drivers use them at night for free.

State Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said complaints from constituents are fueling their effort to change the operation of toll lanes that opened on the 17-mile stretch between Bellevue and Lynnwood in September.

“I’m hoping to address the big concerns I’ve heard people talk about and to provide some reasonable solutions without undoing the whole thing,” Harmsworth said shortly after a news conference at the UW Bothell campus.

“It has failed badly so let’s take a step back.”

Since tolling began Sept. 27, the northbound afternoon commute through Bothell has taken longer, and north-end commuters report it takes longer to get to their jobs going southbound in the morning, too.

Weekends see more congestion than usual, as well, and collisions are up as drivers get used to new lanes and the methods of getting in and out of them.

Earlier this month a group of residents formed Stop405tolls.org and launched an online petition that’s already garnered more than 25,000 signatures.

Harmsworth and Hill are sponsoring identical bills and prefiled them this week in advance of the 2016 session that starts Jan. 11.

As proposed, the legislation limits the Washington State Department of Transportation to one express toll lane in each direction. That would mean the second toll lane now between Bellevue and Bothell would become a general purpose lane.

The bill also would open toll lanes in both directions to any driver at no cost between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily and on state holidays. This is how it worked with the old carpool lane on this part of the I-405 corridor.

Finally, the bill calls for removing the double white-lines on the entire 17-mile stretch except in places where it might present a safety problem. This would make it easier for drivers to enter and exit the toll lanes; today drivers can only get in and out of the lanes at a limited number of places where there is a break in the double white lines.

On Wednesday, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee cautioned against expecting the bill to succeed this year.

“I am not interested at this point in making major changes,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. “My goal is to make (toll lanes) work better for everyone.”

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said there have been changes in response to issues raised by drivers. The most recent include extending the access point on northbound I-405 at NE 6th Street in Bellevue and removing some of the white striping on northbound I-405 approaching I-5 in Lynnwood to give drivers more room to merge to I-5 from the express toll lanes.

Clibborn said state law requires a review of the performance of these toll lanes in September 2017. At that point they could be significantly modified or even terminated.

“We said we would look at it in two years,” she said. “I don’t want people to think we’ll try a new idea every month. We have to allow things to shake out.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A person walks in the rain at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
First heavy rain event predicted Sunday night for Snohomish County

Starting Sunday evening, 1 to 1½ inches of rain is expected in western Washington. It marks the end of fire season, meteorologists said.

Clinton man, 61, dies in motorcycle crash Friday

Washington State Patrol lists speed as the cause. No other people or vehicles were involved.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Separate road rage incident ends with fatal shooting in Lake Stevens

A man, 41, died at the scene in the 15300 block of 84th Street NE. No arrests have been made.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and law enforcement partners advise the public of of colorful fentanyl.  (Photo provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration)
After rainbow fentanyl pills found in Tulalip, police sound alarms

Investigators are concerned the pastel-colored pills may end up in the hands of children.

Most Read