Governor calls for extra lanes, toll breaks on I-405; GOP says it's not enough

BOTHELL, Wash. -- Since the I-405 toll lanes opened, a lot of drivers have complained that the express lanes tolling system have made traffic worse.

Responding to the complaints, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday he would not be shutting down the tolling system, as some people have called for, but that 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.

“I am announcing more than a dozen changes,” Inslee said.

The governor said he's keeping the two toll lanes open for now but he wants the shoulder on I-405 used as an extra lane between Bothell and Lynnwood.

“That is going to be a $30 (million) to $50 million project,” Inslee said.

It will also cost millions to add extra auxiliary lanes between Bellevue and Kirkland.

“You can add five more lanes and, yes, everyone will get to the choke points faster. But what's the point?” Bill Miller asked.

Some drivers say specific choke points need to be expanded for long-term congestion relief, something the governor says he is aware of.

“We’ve also experienced new choke points that have developed. We are hearing real frustrations from real drivers,” Inslee said.

Many drivers want the state to get rid of tolls all together. But the governor instead announced a compromise to eliminate tolls during certain times of the week.

“On evening off-peak hours, on weekends and holidays,” Inslee said.

WSDOT says they are studying the changes that could take effect by this spring.

“We need to understand what are the right hours to implement,” Patty Rubstello with WSDOT said.

WSDOT needs to get the approval from the tolling commission before they can eliminate tolls during non-peak evening hours, weekends and holidays.  It will also take a lot longer to add the shoulder and auxiliary lanes. WSDOT needs to study the impact and present their findings to lawmakers, who ultimately have the final say.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, released the following statement in response to Inslee's announcement.

“We're glad the governor has finally acknowledged that the I-405 HOT lanes are an issue and that he’s choosing to adopt, in his proposal, some of the reforms that had already been suggested by Senator (Andy) Hill (of Redmond). However, it's important to note that he has not consulted with the Senate majority about his plan. He is ultimately responsible for its effect on the I-405 corridor. We hope he will work with us in the future so Washington commuters and employers can finally enjoy comprehensive, permanent, and meaningful congestion relief.

“These changes are a small fix for a huge problem and are nowhere near enough to solve the real issues of poor management at the Department of Transportation. We’re hoping those are also on the governor’s to-do list.”


Inslee, at his news conference Tuesday, also proposed changes to I-5 on Tuesday.

He wants to replace aging expansion joints on the freeway, starting near Marysville and then between Tukwila and Federal Way, eventually getting to the ones near Boeing Field and Ravenna.

He's also asking lawmakers for $10 million to pay for 10 more road crews to help clear crashes and help drivers who are blocking traffic.