Toll rates are expected to vary between 75 cents and $4 per trip, with the maximum of $10 during extreme congestion.
The new express toll lanes on Interstate 405 will open Sept. 27, state transportation officials announced Thursday morning.
In the 17-mile corridor between Bellevue and Lynnwood, vehicles with fewer than three people at peak times (5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. weekdays), or fewer than two people at off-peak times will have to pay a toll to use the express toll lanes — and bypass congestion in the general traffic lanes.
In general, toll rates are expected to vary between 75 cents and $4 per trip, with a ceiling of $10 during extreme congestion.
The price for the two express lanes will be adjusted to keep traffic flowing at 45 mph or better, the premise being that rising tolls will pressure some drivers to stay in the general lanes.
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Drivers on I-405 experience some of the worst traffic in the state, with up to eight hours of congestion a day, according to a 2014 state congestion report.
State toll managers are urging people to get their toll passes now instead of waiting until the last minute. To receive a pass by mail before opening day, drivers must order by the end of August, said Craig Stone, assistant transportation secretary.
So far, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has distributed 50,000 Good To Go Flex Passes this year, with a goal of 100,000, to prepare for the changeover. These special passes have a sliding feature that allows drivers to block roadside transponders from charging a toll while the vehicle is used for a carpool.
Motorists’ existing Good To Go window stickers also function on I-405, but drivers will always be charged the toll, regardless of how many people are inside the car. Flex Passes are sold for $15, and ordinary Good To Go for $5.
Toll passes can be ordered:
• Online through GoodtoGo.com.
• In person from WSDOT customer-service centers in Bellevue at 13107 N.E. 20th St., Suites 3 and 4; in Seattle’s University District at 4554 Ninth Ave. N.E., Suite 100, or Gig Harbor at 3212 50th St. Court N.W., Suite 200. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays
• By phone, 866-936-8246.
• By postal mail, by following instructions and printing forms off the GoodtoGo website.
• People who carpool on I-405 can qualify for a free FlexPass through rideshareonline.com.
• Motorcyclists can apply online for a free pass, to travel toll-free, at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/freepass.htm#Motorcycle
Even carpoolers will need a new FlexPass, said spokesman Ethan Bergerson. Otherwise, toll-system cameras will record their license plates, and WSDOT will send a “toll by mail” bill — for the toll rate plus a $2 surcharge. The FlexPasses signal the roadside equipment to not charge a toll.
The express toll lanes, also known as HOT (High Occupancy or Toll) lanes, are meant to let solo drivers buy a sure, fast trip when they need one — while at the same time keeping a clear path for carpools and transit.
Some motorists, including the Eastside Transportation Association, object to the state making these new lanes tollways, instead of adding a general-purpose lane each direction — in light of the fact that most of the construction is funded through taxes, not tolls.
Also, many two-person carpoolers who now use the high-occupancy lane for free will soon be forced to pay, when it’s converted into an express toll lane.
Electronic toll-rate signs, both over the freeway and along some approaching streets, are now being tested.
If heavy rain falls and prevents restriping of the new pavement, the opening date for tolls could be delayed, Stone said.