Stop405Tolls.org was asked to participate in a working session with the House Transportation Committee on Thursday. I, David Hablewitz, represented us and gave a presentation of some of our issues with the new toll on I-405. You can watch the meeting in its entirety on the government website TVW.org. First WSDOT gave a status report on the toll system and mentioned the changes they have made and will be making and what items they will “continue to monitor”. Then Mark Hallenbeck of TRAC at UW, spoke about the data taken from 2 sources (Inryx and WSDOT highway sensors) regarding travel times. Following that was a panel of three who provided different perspectives on the toll system. These include Claudia Balducci, King County councilmember (and former mayor of Bellevue, during the I-405/SR 167 corridor planning development); Justin Leighton, the executive director at the WA State Transit Association; and David Hablewitz, systems analyst/solution designer and certified project manager at Divergent Solutions.
The good news is that WSDOT is listening to public input and the input we have given them and are working to fix some of the broken parts. Some things they are considering, like Hard Shoulder Driving during peak hours, should have been implemented long ago. Once again, the REAL solutions have nothing to do with tolling.
David’s presentation provided the committee with many insights into the tolling that WSDOT had not been telling them. For instance, our research found proof that the 4th general purpose lane on NB I-405 from SR520 to NE 70th St was considered a general purpose lane, NOT an auxiliary lane and that they were not authorized to remove that. (Special thanks to our professional trucking friends for finding this data! Respect these folks on the road!) That must be fixed.
David had a follow up call with Rep Clibborn after the meeting. The bad news is that Committee Chair Judy Clibborn has absolutely no intention of letting go of this new found money in the toll system, regardless of how expensive it is to operate. Unlike most toll roads that toll everyone (520 bridge for instance), these Express Toll Lanes create a class separation between the lanes. She finds this class-dividing express lane of social injustice perfectly acceptable with the explanation that “people have a choice to use the other lanes”.
You know what to do. The message should be clear: We don’t want a toll on our highways. It is a wasteful method for collecting tax money and it creates a class division in our society and it deters carpooling.
There are many things WSDOT can do to improve congestion and NONE of them involve the toll. But there is nothing WSDOT can do to fix these 3 problems the toll creates. Only the Legislators can do that. And be sure when you call that you mention you’re a registered voter and have every intention of using your vote to make your message heard.
-The Team at Stop405tolls.org