State lawmakers propose bill to overhaul I-405 toll lanes

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BOTHELL - As the traffic noise gets louder on I-405, so do the voices on a petition opposing the new toll lanes.

A petition on Stop405tolls.org had 25,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

“The whole HOV, two people to three people, that`s a disaster as far as I am concerned,” Bothell resident Lynn Whitbeck said.

Many say their commute times have doubled even tripled ever since WSDOT launched the hot lanes between Bellevue to Lynnwood.

“In any private company, there would be people fired for that,” Senator Andy Hill said.

State lawmakers say the new program is so flawed they have filed a bill to make three major changes.

“It lets us at least stop the bleeding,” Hill said.

The bill calls for the two express toll lanes each way between Bothell to Bellevue to shrink to one.

Lawmakers also want to get rid of toll fees between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“Right now, you can exit and enter the hot lanes at specific points," Hill said. "We would make that entry and exit anywhere as long as it`s not a safety issue."

But WSDOT says it’s too early to make major changes.

“Drivers are saving around 15 minutes for a little over $2 for trips in the toll lanes,”Jennifer Charlebois of WSDOT said.

So we then asked WSDOT if they deemed the toll lanes a success.

“It`s definitely early, but we`ve seen some positive outcomes from the lanes,” Charlebois said.

But those who oppose it say they don't see any benefits - only high toll fees that climbed to $10 last week.

WSDOT says the toll fees go up as more drivers use the toll lanes.

"If you are really wealthy, yeah, you can spend $10 for the toll one way,” Whitbeck said. "That`s close to $5,000 to $6,000 a year, it`s a small car in 3 years that you are giving to WSDOT,” Representative Mark Harmsworth said.

Another big frustration is the long wait to talk to a customer service agent.

On Wednesday, we called to see what the wait time was.

After about 18 minutes on hold a customer service rep picked up our call.

Lawmakers say that`s another reason they need changes now.

“It’s a mess,” Hill said.

WSDOT apologized for the long waits customers are facing, saying they are working to fix the problem. WSDOT says with only two months into the new program, it’s too early to make big changes, but they promised to look at the proposed changes and they promised to monitor negative comments.

They also sent us positive comments they are getting on social media. One driver tweeted about loving the new system, saying it now takes 40 minutes to get from Marysville to Renton.