Drivers in Washington State are no strangers to state driving tolls. As new driving tolls have recently gone into effect, I wanted to take a moment to go over the current state of tolls throughout the State. I want to warn drivers of a new traffic infraction that I see being cited with more frequency by the Washington State Patrol, Failure to Pay Toll Facility under RCW 46.61.690.1A .
In 2007, the Washington State Department of Transportation began implementing tolls on roads and bridges in an attempt to help fund new projects and maintain current infrastructure across the state. Advocates of tolls say they are an innovative tool used for not only funding major transportation plans but also by helping ease traffic congestion throughout the region.
While others argue that the tools have not lived up to the congestion relief that was promised when they went into effect. This lack of congestion relief is evidenced by the fact that in 2019, the Washington State Legislature changed the law regarding the tolls on I-405 and SR 167. Before this change in RCW 47.56.880(2)(d), these tolls were supposed to “ensure” that average vehicle speeds in toll lanes would be above 45 mph at least 90% of the time. These speeds were not reached, and the legislature changed the wording in the law this past June (2019). The current version replaced “ensure” with “maintain the goal” of the 45 mph at least 90% of the time during peak hours.
Will Washington toll lanes provide the congestion relief Washington drivers are seeking? Only time will be able to answer that question.
Washington state currently has five tolling facilities across the region. They are:
The SR 99 tunnel opened on February 4, 2019, and tolls went into effect on November 9, 2019. Toll rates range from $1.00 to $2.25 with a Good To Go! pass or $3.00 to $4.25 without one depending on the time of day an individual drives through the tunnel. The specific amounts can be found here. The tolls are collected in both directions of the tunnel as you exit the tunnel.
Toll rates on the 520 Bridge range from $1.25 to $4.30 with a Good To Go! pass or $3.25 to $6.30 without one depending on the time of day an individual drives over the bridge. The specific amounts can be found here. The tolls are collected in both directions of the bridge.
Tolls are only collected for trips headed to Tacoma on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The cost of the tolls is fixed and is determined by the way you pay for the toll. They are:
The SR 167 high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, open, are high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes open to solo drivers who choose to pay a toll. In addition, carpools of two or more, vanpools, motorcycles, and buses use the lanes toll-free.
SR 167 HOT Lanes toll rates are dynamically priced and can change based on traffic conditions. The lanes are tolled from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, and toll prices range between 50 cents and $9. These HOT lanes are upon to all drivers free of charge after 7 p.m. The signs will say “OPEN,” which signifies that the lanes are open to all drivers.
Single drivers who choose to use the HOT lanes on SR 167 must install a Good To Go! pass in their vehicle and have an active Good to Go! account
Rates for solo drivers to use the HOT lanes are posted on roadside signs, and you always pay the first toll rate you see when you enter the lanes, even if you see a different toll rate down the road. Also, it is important to note that unlike the HOT lanes on I-405, Drivers may enter and exit the HOT lanes almost anywhere along the HOT lane route. In most places, HOT lanes are separated by a single white line, which a driver may cross over at any time.
For most drivers (unless you are a regular I-405 commuter), chances are these express toll lanes have left you feeling dazed and confused after driving them. These express toll lanes opened in 2015 and run for roughly 15 miles between Lynnwood and Bellevue.
These lanes are free to carpoolers with a Flex Pass and to motorcycles with a motorcycle pass. However, the number of people in the vehicle to qualify as a carpool depends on the time of day. During peak hours (5 a.m. – 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.) to be eligible as a valid carpool, you need three or more people. While from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., you would only need the traditional two or more people.
These lanes are also free to most drivers on the weekends, certain holidays, and from 7 p.m. – 5 a.m. However, vehicles over 10,000 pounds are prohibited from using the express toll lanes at any time (except RVs).
Vehicles that do not meet the carpool requirements stated above can still use the express toll lanes by paying the toll. The I-405 express toll lane rates are dynamically priced and can change based on traffic conditions. The toll ranges from 75 cents to $10. The signs will tell you the current rates, and you lock in your rate when you enter the lane.
The I-405 express toll lanes defer from the 167 HOT lanes by limiting where drivers can enter and exit these lanes. Entry to the express toll lanes is only permitted at designated access points. Dashed white lines typically mark this. The dashed white lines allow drivers to move in and out of the toll lanes. Otherwise, the express toll lanes will have double-white lines. Crossing over a double white line to access the toll lanes could result in a $139 traffic ticket for failure to obey traffic control device under RCW 46.61.050.
With all of these different types of tolls, of course, the Washington DOT would make different types of Good To Go pass options. Fortunately, they have created a tool that will help you select the best pass for you.
The two most commonly used passes are the Good To Go! Sticker and the Good To Go! Flex Pass. The main difference between these two options is that the flex pass allows you to switch to HOV mode for a free trip on the SR 167 HOT lanes or I-405 express toll lanes when you qualify as a carpool.
It is important to remember to switch your flex pass to the correct setting (Toll or HOV) or risk getting a ticket for Failure to Pay Toll Facility under RCW 46.61.690.1A. In addition, you may also be cited for an HOV violation.
I-405 is equipped with white beacons that will flash when a driver claims carpool status using a Flex Pass. If the white light beacon comes on, the Trooper knows that vehicle passing through the reader is claiming HOV status and not paying the toll. From there, troopers can look to see how many people are in the car and whether they qualify for HOV status. If you don’t, you can expect to be pulled over and cited with a $139 traffic ticket for Failure to Pay Toll Facility.
As I am writing this article, Failure to Pay Toll Facility is considered a non-moving violation in Washington State. However, I believe that in the near future, it will be classified as a moving violation. I reason that the State legislature wants to crack down on HOV violators and just this year passed a new law doing so.
When you consider that this is a type of HOV infraction, I believe that it will eventually find its way onto the moving violations list. That list can be found here.
Whether you should fight your Failure to Pay Toll Facility traffic ticket depends on several factors and would be unwise for me to provide a bright-line rule at this time. Therefore, I encourage you to contact my office to set up a free case evaluation so we can layout the best option for your situation.
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