WA STATE WIRE: I-405 Tolls Poised to Become Election Year Issue

Here is Washington State Wire's recent coverage of the traffic jams caused by the Jay Inslee administration on 405.   An important issue in the governor's election.

The Washington State Wire noted:

Tolling on I-405 was contentious long before it was implemented in September 2015. It garnered new and lasting attention following the surprise firing of now former Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) head, Lynn Peterson last month...

...Although the issue has been laid to rest this year in Olympia, it’s likely to become a serious talking point for both gubernatorial candidates in the upcoming election as they fight for votes in the Puget Sound.

The background:

…Tolling on the 17 mile stretch of I-405 that runs from Bellevue to Lynnwood was implemented about 5 months ago. Since then, there’s been a vocal backlash from residents north of Seattle and Bellevue who say that traffic has not improved and that they are paying higher than expected prices...

The WA State Wire continued with a key question:

...It seems like a simple question: are the tolls working or not?...

…Although express lanes show improvement, angry motorists are complaining over worsening traffic in the general purpose lanes. When the tolling was enacted in 2011, one of its stated purposes was “reducing congestion.” Other complaints include tolls shooting up to $10 (far above WSDOT’s average estimate of $1-4) on occasion and new choke points near the Bothell area. A petition to repeal the tolling altogether has received 31,000 signatures.

A report from traffic data company INRIX showed that although traffic in the express toll lanes (formerly HOV lanes) is moving faster than before, general purpose lanes are moving more slowly. It stated that  “post-toll speed improvements on I-405 are isolated to vehicles that already experience the least peak hour congestion (i.e., those driving in the HOV/HOT lanes), while post-toll speeds in the general purpose lanes have generally gotten worse for the majority of drivers.”

This finding is in contrast to WSDOT’s data, which says that the general purpose lanes are moving 7 minutes faster going southbound and 1 minute faster going northbound...

...When asked if he sees the I-405 tolls as a major issue in the upcoming election Harmsworth said yes. “I think voters will definitely consider this issue as they choose who to vote for in the upcoming elections. Transportation is becoming increasingly important to people in the Puget Sound.” However, Harmsworth doesn’t think it’s a partisan issue. “Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, you’re still stuck in traffic,” he replied...

Bill Bryant has been vocal about “freeing” the HOT lane:

While the issue may not register ideologically along party lines, regional transportation has clearly become an issue for Republicans in the Puget Sound area to rally around. It’s also been an issue that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant has been vocal about.

On the same day that Governor Inslee called for changes to I-405 Bryant also put out a statement on the issue. His plan?  “Free one HOT lane into a general-purpose lane..."

…In a separate interview Bryant discredited Inslee’s plan, saying, “What Governor Inslee is doing is causing people to sit in traffic. His job is not to socially engineer people out of their cars. His job is to keep traffic moving.”

“I think Jay Inslee wants this issue to go away and he’s acted as if those who bring it up are somehow bothering him but the people affected by 405 are bothered every day when they can’t get to work on time and they can’t get home to see their families at a reasonable hour… frankly he just seems bothered by doing the job,” he said.

For a full copy of the artcle, [CLICK HERE].

Mike Foster