Gov. Inslee says state won't eliminate I-405 tolling, but changes are coming

SHORELINE, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced plans to try to decrease congestion on Interstate 405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse.

The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion. They also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes.

"More than a dozen changes will be implemented along the corridor that will increase capacity and improve overall operations. Changes include new auxiliary lanes and hard running shoulders at key chokepoints near SR 520 and SR 527, improved striping and signage, longer access points that make it easier for drivers to merge into the toll lanes, and improved algorithms to keep the toll lanes moving."

Inslee emphasized at a news conference that the tolling system is a two-year pilot and as a pilot it's doing its job. He says state officials are learning a lot from the experience and continually working to improve the situation for drivers.

“For many years, the I-405 corridor has been the most congested in the state,” Inslee said. “We’re almost six months into the two year launch of these lanes and the results are mixed. While the data shows there have been significant improvements for many motorists and the corridor as a whole, new chokepoints have developed and we are hearing the frustration from those affected drivers. I’m directing WSDOT to move on short and long term solutions to address these chokepoints.”

Interstate 5

At the Tuesday afternoon news conference, he also announced a proposal focused on congestion and safety on Interstate 5.

He is requesting the Legislature approve 10 new incident response teams for I-5 to quickly clear collisions and provide roadside assistance. The request adds $10 million to the governor's supplemental transportation budget, starting with $1.4 million of initial funding.

“These hard working men and women rove our major corridors looking for blocking incidents and stalls that can cause major traffic jams,” Inslee said. “We’ve all seen them, and we’ve all seen how quickly they can get folks moving again. They do an incredible job keeping the roads clear throughout the Puget Sound and assisting drivers with everything from flat tires to fender benders.”

The governor also spoke about replacing 41 aging expansion joins along the freeway near Marysville and 12 expansion joints between Federal Way and Southcenter.

Inslee says the proposed changes to the I-405 express lanes will improve traffic flow and add capacity. Residents and workers in Seattle's eastern suburbs have complained about the tolling system that has increased congestion on an already busy roadway.