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Study suggests I-405 tolls should exceed $10, state lawmaker says not so fast

A research team from the University of Minnesota presented its findings of a two-year study of the I-405 tolling program to the Washington State Transportation Convention on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (Photo: KOMO News)

OLYMPIA – A research team from the University of Minnesota presented its findings of a two-year study of the I-405 tolling program to the Washington State Transportation Commission on Wednesday.

The study found that the express toll lanes do not maintain speeds of 45 miles per hour at least 90 percent of the time during peak periods, as mandated by state legislation.

The study found the program does generate sufficient revenue to pay for all I-405 express lane costs.

In fact, the tolls brought in $44.5 million in revenue, with a profit of nearly $29 million to be used to improve the corridor.

The study was published in December.

One of the suggestions of the study is to raise the toll cap from its current maximum of $10 to access the 15-mile stretch between Bellevue and Lynnwood.

Despite the suggestion, Rep. Judy Clibborn, Chair of the House Transportation Committee, said tolls would not exceed $10.

“That cap is not going to change at all,” said Clibborn in Olympia on Wednesday.

Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-44th district, wants the legislature to take more accountability for the toll program.

“Right now we’re not in compliance with state law, and DOT is clearly flaunting what the intent of the legislation was,” Rep. Harmsworth said.

Harmsworth added that drivers are being priced off of the interstate and he wants I-405 to return to four general lanes and two HOV lanes.

“We have a supplemental budget that is coming up, so I’m going to be working to see if I can do some budget provisos to defund the lanes and get this thing back on track,” said Rep. Harmsworth.

The Washington State Department of Transportation told KOMO News it plans to improve the efficiency along the entrance and exits to the express toll lanes to improve traffic flow.

WSDOT has also already improved the tolling algorithm, a suggestion from the Minnesota study, and now updates toll rates every three minutes, rather than every five minutes.

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