Making the I-405 express toll lanes more effective will be part of the 2018 legislative session.
Increasing the maximum toll rate over the current $10 limit will not likely be part of any solution.
“That’s like the last resort,” said Reema Griffith, executive director of the Washington State Transportation Commission, the state body that sets toll rates.
When lawmakers approved the I-405 toll lane program, the state required two benchmarks within two years.
Tolls had to pay for maintenance and operation of the lanes, and the average speed in the lanes during peak commutes had to remain at 45 miles an hour, 90 percent of that time.
After two years, the lanes have had no problem paying for themselves, but the needed speed has only occurred 81 percent of the time.
That result prompted Republican Representative Mark Harmsworth to call for eliminating the tolls, immediately.
Fellow Republican Senator Curtis King, who chairs the transportation committee, said the issue should be discussed early in the legislative session, which starts in January.
Democratic Governor Jay Inslee said the toll lanes should remain open.
In a written statement, he said the lanes have reduced commute times by up to 14 minutes for 50,000 drivers.
“Instead of requesting a complete shutdown of these lanes, Rep. Harmsworth should work with the rest of us to make them as effective as possible,” said Inslee.
During its meeting Wednesday in Olympia, Washington State Transportation Commission members learned they will not have to increase taxes on any of the state’s toll roads in 2018.
But the members will have to come up with a tolling rate plan for the new Highway 99 tunnel, which is expected to be open to drivers in January of 2019, said Washington State Department of Transportation Tolling Director Ed Barry.
Griffith said the first month could be toll-free for tunnel drivers.
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