Photo courtesy of Good to Go via Twitter

Ready or not, here it comes. Interstate 405 express toll lanes will open on Sept. 27 between NE 6th Street in downtown Bellevue and I-5 in Lynnwood. The new lanes are reserved for carpools, which travel through for free, and single drivers willing to pay up to $10 to cruise past normal bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Toll fees will adjust based on peak traffic times, 5 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., starting at 75 cents. Existing Good to Go passes will automatically work on the 17-mile stretch of toll lanes on I-405.  Drivers also can pay a higher rate by mail.


Photo courtesy WSDOT

Carpools can ride free in the new express lanes but there’s a catch. Each carpool group needs a new Good To Go Flex Pass set to HOV in order to ride without fees. A flex pass can switch between “Toll” mode (to pay fees) and “HOV” mode (to ride free as a carpool).  And, Washington State Transportation Commission recently switched its rules on carpooling. At least three people are required for a vehicle to qualify for the HOV lane during peak traffic hours. Outside of peak hours, two people qualify for the HOV lane. Motorcycles also need Good To Go to ride free.

The new toll lanes have kicked up some dust from drivers complaining that it heavily rewards wealthy drivers who can afford the toll.  But, regardless, it’s happening, and people are ready to cruise.

“We’ve already distributed more than 50,000 Flex Passes—including 11,000 free passes through—and we expect the demand to increase now that we’re officially counting down,” said Assistant Secretary of Transportation Craig Stone in a statement.

A flex pass is $15 but drivers who carpool at least once a week on I-405 can qualify for a free pass through . But, if you’re looking for a free one act fast. Stone says demand is only growing as Sept. 27 creeps closer. His advice? Get prepared.

“This is a major milestone for us, but also a major call to action for drivers, especially carpoolers, to get ready,” said Stone. “We know from experience that some drivers wait until the last minute to prepare, inundating the customer center, so take action now to avoid the lines.”