The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

WS DOT explains SR 167 HOT Pilot Program

What are HOT Lanes? 2/1/08

High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes are your ticket to the fast lane when you just can’t be late. This four-year pilot project will test a new congestion management tool that allows solo drivers to pay an electronic toll, without ever stopping, to use the carpool lanes.

Toll rates fluctuate with the level of congestion to ensure that traffic in the HOT lane flows at least 45 mph, even when the regular lanes are congested.

The project is scheduled to launch in spring 2008. A single HOT lane in each direction will run along nine miles of State Route 167 between Renton and Auburn in King County. Carpools of two people or more, transit, vanpools and motorcycles will use the HOT lanes toll free.

SR 167 drivers need to know:

* No Double-Crossing. The HOT lane will be separated from the general-purpose lanes by a double white line. It will be illegal to cross the double white line. All vehicles may enter the HOT lanes only at designated entry points marked by a single dashed line.
* Watch the Signs. A sign will announce a HOT lane access point is approaching a half-mile before each dashed-line entrance zone. Another electronic sign will indicate the current toll price at the beginning of each access point.
* Pilot Project. HOT lanes on SR 167 is a four-year pilot project, during which time WSDOT will be monitoring, evaluating and adjusting the system. If the program is a success, HOT lanes someday could open on other highways across the state.

Why a Toll?

A toll that adjusts with congestion levels will help maintain an optimal level of traffic in the carpool lanes. By adding more cars to the HOT lane when there's extra space, the entire highway will run more efficiently with less stop-and-go traffic.

Variable tolling eases congestion. The fluctuating toll amount ensures that traffic in the HOT lane is moving at least 45 mph virtually all the time. Revenues from the toll will help fund the program.

Good To Go!

The toll will be collected automatically using a Good To Go! transponder. That means no toll booths! Radio-frequency sensors electronically debit the toll.

When driving in HOT lanes with a passenger, motorists can avoid paying the toll by deactivating their transponder. A small shield that adheres with Velcro over the e-sticker transponder on the inside of a vehicle's windshield will disable the transponder by interupting the radio signal from the overhead sensor. Good To Go! shields will be availabe from WSDOT for a small fee shortly before HOT lanes open in spring 2008.

Why is WSDOT studying HOT Lanes on SR 167?

WSDOT is always looking for innovative ways to improve traffic flow.
Thanks to advances in technology, HOT lanes can help make our roads work better and more efficiently, so everyone benefits.

SR 167 connects communities between Renton and Tacoma and provides the Puget Sound region with a vital alternative to Interstate 5. It was chosen as the site for the HOT lanes pilot project because it's high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are underused.

Preliminary data from other states show that with HOT lanes more vehicles could travel on SR 167 daily, improving traffic flow for all drivers while also preserving speeds of at least 45 mph for transit, carpools and vanpools.

HOT lanes have been successful and popular in other U.S. states -- they are in operation in California, Texas, Minnesota and Colorado.

The End Result

SR 167 soon will have the first HOT lanes in Washington State. The pilot project will provide WSDOT with more information to help determine how HOT lanes could be used to improve traffic flow and what modifications will be needed to fine tune the system. WSDOT also will be asking both carpoolers and solo drivers how they feel about this the new commuting option throughout the four-year pilot period.

In addition to opening nine miles of HOT lanes in the southbound and northbound lanes of SR 167, WSDOT also is improving the northbound SR 167 exit ramps to I-405 as part of this project.

Project Benefits

* New Commute Option. Drivers can choose if and when they want to use the HOT lanes for an express trip.
* Fast, Reliable Travel. HOT lanes will maintain free flow speeds, even when the other lanes are congested.
* Increased Efficiency. More vehicles and more people will be able to travel SR 167 daily, benefiting all drivers.
* Increased Enforcement. WSDOT will pay for additional State Patrol troopers to enforce the new HOT lane rules.
* Toll-free Trips for Carpools and Transit. Carpools, vanpools, buses and motorcycles may continue to use the lane toll-free during the test project, like they use the HOV lane today.
* Congestion Relief. By encouraging transit and carpools, and allowing solo drivers to pay a toll to use the lanes, HOT lanes will allow SR 167 to carry more people and vehicles to help accommodate future population and employment growth in the region.
* Safety. The project includes adding a two-foot buffer between the HOT lanes and the general-purpose lanes. There will also be designated areas where vehicles can enter and exit the HOT lanes.
* Environment. The project will maintain or improve air quality and support regional environmental goals.

What is the project timeline?

* The SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot project is anticipated to open in spring 2008.
* Following the opening of the SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot Project, a detailed monitoring and evaluation period will begin.
* Data will be collected and assessed to determine the overall success of the project.
* WSDOT will provide annual reports to the legislature and the Transportation Commission. Resports will be available on the WSDOT Web site.

Public Involvement

Your thoughts and opinions are important to us. Public outreach activities will be conducted throughout the HOT Lanes Pilot Project. Outreach activities will include community meetings, focus groups and briefings to any organization that is interested in learning more about this project.

The project team will also periodically develop informational materials, such as a project folio and updates to this Web site to keep you informed about the project’s progress and provide information about upcoming project events. Let us know if you would like to be added to the South King County e-mail updates list, and we’ll keep you informed on projects in your area, including this one.

The Outreach Events page will be updated with project announcements and dates when project staff will be in your community.

Title VI: WSDOT assures full compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin and sex in the provision of benefits and services. For language interpretation services please contact WSDOT at 206.382.5287. It is necessary to speak limited English so WSDOT can respond appropriately.

For information on WSDOT's Title VI Program, please contact the Title VI Coordinator at 360.705.7098 or visit our Web site.

Environmental Protection

WSDOT and our study partners make every effort to identify and avoid or minimize environmental effects from our projects. This project is not expected to result in significant environmental impacts since no new lanes will be added to SR 167.

Please visit the WSDOT Environmental Services Web site for more information.

Increasing safety is one of our priorities

Similar projects across the country have demonstrated that HOT lanes are safe for drivers. WSDOT will expand the current HOV buffer from a single white stripe (eight-inch buffer) to a double-white stripe (two-foot buffer).

It will be illegal for drivers to cross the double white line and weave in and out of the HOT lanes from the general-purpose lanes. The HOT lanes will have electronic signs with the toll rate and limited access points for entering and exiting. Wherever possible, the presence of law enforcement and incident response teams will help ensure the safe use of the HOT lanes.


WSDOT will pay for additional Washington State Patrol troopers to monitor HOT lane traffic.

When solo drivers with a valid GoodToGo! e-sticker enter the HOT lanes, a light will flash on the overhead sensor. If the light doesn’t flash and there is no passenger in the vehicle, a State trooper will stop vehicle and issue a citation.

Any violation of HOT lane rules could result in a fine of $124 or more.

Will this project impact tribal resources?

WSDOT seeks to address the concerns of the tribal nations using the process outlined in Section 106 of The National Historic Preservation Act and the WSDOT Tribal Consultation Policy adopted in 2003 by the Transportation Commission as part of the WSDOT Centennial Accord Plan.
For more information, please visit the WSDOT Tribal Liaison Web site.

Financial Information

This project is funded through the following sources:

* 2005 Gas Tax - $12.74 Million
* Federal Highway Administration - $5.13 Million
These funds are provided through Federal Formula Funds and a grant from the Federal Highway Administration's Value Pricing Program.

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