Tag Archives: Highway 167

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.”

Toll cameras are watching on Highway 167


The in basket:  Richard Hurley passed along an e-mail exchange he’d had with the Good to Go! toll office for the Tacoma Narrows Bridges and the Highway 167 HOT lanes near Kent after he was surprised to find an unexpected 50-cent change on his toll account.

“Most folks around here purchased transponders for the Narrows Bridge, (and) they could be picking up additional charges without being aware of it,” he said.

To Good to Go!, he wrote about his 50-cent toll for use of the HOV lanes, saying “On the 17th, my  wife, son and I attended a funeral in Kent and used Highway 167 to travel to Seattle. Does this (mean) a vehicle with three passengers can no longer use the carpool lanes without a charge being posted to our Good To Go account?”

A Good to Go! employee replied, “You need a transponder shield if you are carpooling in the HOT lane on SR167.  It fits over the transponder on the inside of the window and prevents the radio signal from being transmitted.  We have them here for $3.50 if you want one.  

“I will remove the $.50 charge from your account as a one-time-only toll reversal,” the reply said.

I asked Janet Matkin of Good to Go! if this is the usual resolution of such an incident and how high an inadvertent  HOT lane tolls might be.

The out basket: Yes, Janet told me, they do “typically reverse the first inadvertent toll on the 167 HOT lanes. So, customers who do not realize they must have a shield to temporarily block their transponder if they are carpooling in the HOT lanes can call the Good To Go! customer service for a one-time-only reversal.

The range of tolls on the HOT lanes is 50 cents to $9, based on how much quicker an HOT lane user gets through than those who stay in the general use lanes. “The toll has reached $9 just a few times — in June and July 2008,” she said. “The typical toll rate is about $1, saving an average of about nine minutes northbound during peak commute time and five minutes during the southbound peak commute. But, on several occasions, the time savings has been 20 minutes or more.”

The Good to Go! service center is at 1-866-936-8246 and goodtogo@goodtogo.wsdot.wa.gov

A new day in toll collecting Saturday

The in basket: Saturday is the day that highway tolls in our state take the next big leap forward, when congestion-pricing tolls offer single-occupant vehicles access to the HOV lanes between Renton and Auburn on Highway 167.
Between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week, a car with the same transponder that works to pay one’s toll to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will let a driver alone in his car pay to use the HOV lanes, called HOT lanes in this case. The price will range from 50 cents to $9, depending on how badly the highway is congested. The Web site suggests the typical rush hour price will be around $5. Signs along the freeway will announce the toll at any given moment.
Shields that sell for $3.50 can be affixed to a transponder to keep it from being read in cars with more than one occupant, buses, vans, etc., which are entitled to use the lanes for free. The shields have to be removed to cross the Narrows Bridge, or when a driver is alone and wants to use the HOT lanes. They are velcroed to the inside of the windshield and somehow interrupt the connection between the transponder and overhead reader without actually being between them.
If you are a bridge user and have a transponder, don’t just ignore that e-mail you got this week from the Good to Go! toll program about the HOT lanes. Janet Matkin of that office says they’ll use a “customer-friendly manner” in dealing with drivers who get tolled because they forgot or didn’t understand the shield when they hit Highway 167, but they won’t easily reverse the toll.
Janet says about 5,000 of the shields have been bought. She didn’t know how many of those are mainly Narrows Bridge users.
There is a lot of information on a state Web site as to how it will all work, with the obligatory Frequently Asked Questions section. But, wouldn’t you know it, I had some questions that must not be frequently asked, but that I bet will enter the minds of dozens of drivers every day.
For example, I wonder how long a toll collection is good for. If a person pulls off in Kent for half an hour, will he be charged again to continue on in the HOT lanes, or will the original toll cover him when he returns to the freeway? How about if he returns to go back the other way? What if he forgot to stop at a previous interchange and goes back, then retraces his path in the original direction?
Will a HOT lane trip to go to dinner in the evening require a new toll if the car was accessed tolls on a trip to work and back earlier in the day?
The out basket: Patty Rubstello of the HOT lanes project says most of my theoretical situations will require paying the toll more than once. Certainly a new toll must be paid to change directions and go back in the HOT lane. A toll for travel in one direction will be good for the 20 minutes or so it is expected to take a HOT lane driver the length of the corridor, about a dozen miles, she said. A half-hour stop in Kent would use that up and incur a new toll to return to the HOT lanes.
Unlike on he Narrows Bridge, the driver of a transponder-equipped car will see a white light flash each time he passes beneath a reader, even if the toll is collected only once. That’s more to tell enforcement officers that the toll has been paid than to comfort the driver, Patty said.