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Thursday, May 03, 2012
Emily Pace, WSDOT Communications, 206-716-1116 (Seattle)
Revenue continues to grow and exceed operational costs
AUBURN – Fewer delays, faster trips and increasing revenue are cause for celebration as the Washington State Department of Transportation marks the four-year anniversary of the State Route 167 HOT Lanes project.
WSDOT launched the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes as a pilot project in 2008 to reduce congestion and improve travel times for SR 167 commuters between Auburn and Renton. The HOT lanes help reduce congestion by allowing solo drivers to pay a toll to use the carpool lane. In March 2011, the state legislature extended the authority for the pilot project through June 30, 2013.
“The HOT lanes are coming of age,” said Craig Stone, Toll Division Director. “Each year we’re seeing more drivers choosing to use the HOT lanes, reducing commute times and congestion on this busy highway. Not only is revenue covering our operating costs, we’re making a little extra and that’s good news for everybody”.
HOT lanes drivers save an average of nine minutes northbound and six minutes southbound during weekday peak hours. During the first year, 30,000 Good To Go! drivers paid to use the HOT lanes; that number doubled in the second year to 60,000. Today, more than 100,000 drivers have paid to use the HOT lanes. Toll rates vary based on congestion, and the average toll paid is between $1.00 and $1.25 per trip.
The end of fiscal year 2011 was the first time toll revenue exceeded expenditures – by a total of $12,000. More recent data from the HOT lanes quarterly financial report to be released next week show a $77,000 surplus in the third quarter of fiscal year 2012.
“We are seeing drivers who may not use the HOT lanes every day, but they use them when their time matters most,” Stone said. “For instance, drivers might use the lanes on days when they’re running late to work or need to pick up their child from day care.”
In the past year, the HOT lanes have had an average of more than 3,500 tolled trips each weekday. When traffic shifts from the general-purpose lanes to the HOT lane, traffic moves more efficiently throughout the corridor as more space is freed up in the general-purpose lanes. The result is improved speeds for general-purpose lane drivers, more reliable commute times for paying solo drivers and continued no-fee service for transit and carpools.
Since opening the HOT lanes, peak hour volumes for the general-purpose lanes have decreased by an average of approximately five percent, while speeds have increased by four percent. Peak hour HOT lane volumes have increased by 15 percent, while speeds have remained consistently at 60 mph.
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