HOT lane components on SR167 create curiosity

 

The in basket: William Smith of Allyn writes, “I recently traveled the toll section of Highway 167 and noticed an overhead sensor over the non-toll lane as well as over the HOT lane. For what purpose is the sensor over the non-toll lane?  

“Also,” he said, “I assume that crossing over the double white lines in this area is subject to the $450 fine, similar to crossing the gore lines at the highway 3-304 connection south of Bremerton.”

The out basket: The white lines separating the HOT lanes from the all-purpose lanes are among those it is illegal to cross, as the signs along that highway make clear. The State Patrol calls it failure to obey a regulatory sign, which carries the same $124 fine as misusing the HOT lane itself. The fine for crossing the white gore lines can be $411, not $450.

The intermittent dotted lines that interrupt the solid white line on Highway 167 are where it’s legal to cross back and forth. 

The overhead sensors in the lane adjacent to the HOT lane helps confirm the lane being used by any given vehicle, says Patricia Michaud of the state’s toll division.

“The sensors … help confirm whether a car is in the HOT lane or not,” she said. “It helps ensure the system is properly identifying which cars are and aren’t in the HOT lane. 

“For example,” she said, “without the second sensor verification,  a vehicle leaving the HOT lane or straddling between the toll and non-toll lane could be mistakenly identified as in the HOT lane.”

For those unfamiliar with the idea of HOT lanes and/or Highway 167, a freeway between Renton and Auburn east of the Sound, they are HOV lanes that single occupant vehicles can pay to use.

The toll ranges from 50 cents to $9. The toll “algorithm,” as the state calls it, recently was changed to make it less common for the toll to rise to $9.

“Tolls reached $9 too often in summer 2008 so we adjusted the algorithm in October 2008 ,” Patricia said. “We haven’t made any further changes to it and it’s hard to predict the rates.” 

In the wee hours, when traffic is light, anyone can use the HOT lanes at no charge. The toll mounts with the level of congestion to limit use of the HOT lanes and keep traffic in them moving at around 50 mph. After the toll has hit $9, the lanes become available only to vehicles with two or more occupants, and motorcycles, each of which can use the HOT lanes at all times without paying anything.

Tolls are collected via the same Good to Go! transponders that collect tolls at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. They can be shielded to avoid a toll when one has one or more passengers and can use the HOV lanes at no charge. 

Details and a lot more information can be found online. The address is way too long and complicated to reproduce here. Just use Google or one of its competitors and ask for “SR167 HOT lanes.”

“The HOT lanes are helping reduce congestion, which is the purpose of this project,” Patricia said. “Speeds have increased in the general purpose lanes by 20 percent and the HOT lanes by 5 percent during the peak-period in the peak direction.”

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