Top state lawmakers won’t tackle I-405 toll changes this year

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KIRKLAND, Wash. — Life in the fast lane on I-405 has a price.

“There are times when the tolls are outrageous, like $10,” Ricky Rodriguez said.

That outrage spawned a bill in the Legislature; some are hoping to completely scrap the toll lanes.

But those against the tolls hoping for action this year will have to wait a little longer.

“I would ask people to be a little patient, let`s get some investment on the ground so people can give the HOT lanes a fair chance,” Rep. Judy Clibborn said.

Clibborn, the chair of the House Transportation Committee and one of the key lawmakers who can move the issue forward in Olympia, is stepping on the brakes.

“We have to look at the tolls two years after they were implemented,” Clibborn said.

Clibborn's committee will not talk 405 tolls until WSDOT is given the full two years for the pilot project to prove itself.

So far Clibborn says the toll lanes are serving their purpose.

“Most of the times when I drive through there the hot lanes are working and I don`t see it backed up,” Clibborn said.

Driver Troy McVicker says he likes having the toll as an option from Bellevue to Lynnwood.

“I don`t mind paying for them, if you need to get somewhere faster time is money,” McVicker said.

But lawmaker Mark Harmsworth who is behind the movement to get rid of 405 tolls says the system is unfair.

“You have situations of the haves and have nots people who can afford it are using it,” Harmsworth said.

He says he’s disappointed his bill is not getting a hearing but he says it’s not over.

“There are plenty of other ways to skin this cat so I am not giving up I will continue to push forward to fix this problem,” Harmsworth said.

Harmsworth says he will use much of this year lobbying for bipartisan support and will be back in 2018 to fight. The pilot project is set to be over September 2017.

Back in November WSDOT announced the tolls were generating millions more than originally projected. The agency says that is because many drivers started taking advantage of the tolls earlier than expected. The extra revenue will be used to improve the 405 corridor. WSDOT says they are always open to find ways to improve the system. As for high toll prices, WSDOT says for the first year of express toll lanes, 3.3% of all peak period toll trips were $10.

The vast majority, 74% were $4 or less.