BELLEVUE, Wash. – You may have to pay up or have more people in your car if you want to use the carpool lane in the future on parts of Interstate 405.
State transportation leaders are meeting Thursday to discuss how to handle new carpool lanes, which it calls express toll lanes. Construction is about half done on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood.
The lanes would be similar to the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on State Route 167. If a solo driver wants to use the HOT lanes, they pay a fee. Vehicles with two or more people get to use it just like an HOV lane.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has major decisions to make on what to charge for those tolls on I-405, expected to begin in 2015. They’re also deciding whether to redefine how many people make up a carpool.
WSDOT said the current HOV lanes on I-405 aren't performing well. They’re clogged with carpoolers and buses are getting stuck in long backups. As a result, WSDOT said drivers in the HOV lanes are going as slow as the general travel lanes during rush hour on I-405.
“We are looking at whether we continue to let people in the two-plus carpool be in the lane for free or do we actually need start charging them because there are so many two-plus carpoolers, so that's something that we'll be talking about and evaluating," said Patty Rubstello of WSDOT’s Toll Division.
As you’d expect, some commuters don’t like the idea of tolls or possibly charging people who drive in what is currently defined as a carpool.
"Probably once a week I get my brother to college. The carpool lane really comes in handy and it's only two of us, so that would be a significant detriment to my transportation on Mondays,” said Max Houser.
"I'm not sure the HOV lanes are the best solutions here, anyway. Maybe all lanes should be open. Just because you have money, why should you be able to travel in a lane that everybody paid for?" said John Markus.
The leaders will also discuss how to pay for the rest of project through the busy corridor from Bellevue to Renton.