Blog WashDOT’s Paula Hammond: Tolled Express Lanes Key

Corridor-length Approach Is Favored; I-405/SR 167 Seen As Model
Reporter Newspapers covers East and South King County, and has produced a lengthy special section – also available online – delving into the region’s surface transportation challenges. In an in interview for “Navigate King County’s Future,” Washington Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond talks about funding, with an emphasis on beginning to to add variable-rate express toll lanes for the full length of major highway corridors such as I-405/SR 167. She also alludes to the next-generation approach of charging vehicles for all miles driven, with on-board units.

In the future, you could be paying for your right to use roads the same way you pay your utilities — a bill based on exactly how much you use. According to Paula Hammond, secretary of transportation, and the state’s highest transportation official, the technology to do that isn’t that far down the road. “It’s 10 to 15 years out,” she said, noting that kind of direct-user fee could be part of the equation for future transportation funding. 

But in the meantime, there is a complex – not to mention expensive – series of transportation needs that the Puget Sound area has to resolve, or at least come to terms with. Traffic congestion; freight issues; super-efficient hybrid vehicles slowing the state’s gas tax to more of a trickle: all of these elements are adding up to a Gordian’s Knot of worries on which the state is working to get a handle.

…Hammond called attention to one of DOT’s latest projects: high-occupancy tolling lanes, or HOT Lanes. It’s a concept allowing non-carpooling drivers to use the HOV lanes, by charging them for the privilege. For more than a year DOT has been operating a test segment of State Route 167 in South King County.

And it’s working…Given the promise of HOT lanes have shown, DOT is working to expand HOT lanes on more of Puget Sound’s clogged roadways – starting with I-405, where road-expansion work is ongoing, and HOV lanes are already present….“But we’re looking at the entire (405) corridor. And as it comes through the 167 interchange and carries down there as well.”…The concept of paying as you go, to fund specific projects like the HOT lanes, is gaining serious momentum as a payment solution for transportation issues…Hammond said drivers investing directly in the roads they use is a critical part of the equation…

(Full article)

(Reporter Newspapers Transportation Special Report: “Navigate King County’s Future“)

WashDOT Slideshow: “Moving Seattle Forward,” (based on state plan, “Moving Washington Forward’).