Despite the incessant protestations of transportation advocates, driving commutes on I-405 are worse for Kirklanders since Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) installed the new tolling system. Kirkland, it seems, is located in a dead zone where vast numbers of us can't utilize the HOV lanes for our commute and we have to suffer worse traffic jams in fewer lanes than before tolling! For some, paying the toll can provide relief, if they can get into the toll lanes, that is. For others who previously carpooled with two persons, the new 3+ carpool definition has them out of luck. They must now join the rest of the masses, worsening the traffic in the general purpose lanes.
As many will recall, when tolling was installed, drivers lost one lane on I-405 between SR520 and NE 70th in Kirkland. Remarkably, WSDOT apologists deny this reality by saying the lane was never defined as "general purpose." So, when WSDOT eliminated one lane entirely -- and effectively restricted that stretch of highway from 3 lanes down to 2 lanes -- they can claim there was never a reduction in lanes. Welcome to the Orwellian world of the WSDOT!
Some folks are fed up with our broken system and are trying to enact change. One attempt is a petition recently started called Stop405Tolls (see right).
According to the petition website, an extensive list of negative impacts to commuters has resulted from these three changes made by WSDOT:
- The HOV lanes were eliminated and replaced with Express Toll Lanes (ETL);
- Access points between the ETL and the general purpose lanes were reduced from unlimited open access to access points only every 3 to 5 miles;
- Even with the required carpool, "free" usage of these lanes requires the purchase of a FlexPass for $15 and open an account with an initial balance of $20.
If one were to listen to the WSDOT, the tolling system is the greatest thing since sliced bread. If one were to listen to the Kirkland commuters trying to drive to and from work, the tolling scheme is a disaster. Of course, your mileage may vary.
We travel I-405 between Kirkland and Bellevue or Seattle almost daily. The new I-405 tolling scheme is a nightmare for our purposes. How many surface streets are now clogged with commuters like us trying to find alternatives to I-405, our designated transportation corridor? Oh what a system we have created!
We would like to say "thank you" to our legislative representatives who pushed for the system we have today. If only we could find them... it seems like none of the usual suspects is standing up to take credit for this piece of work.
Perhaps we should honor those legislators responsible for the I-405 tolls by naming it after them? Wouldn't that be a nice way to say, "thank you?"