The state’s first high-occupancy toll lane began operations Monday morning.
The four-year pilot project will allow single-occupancy vehicles to use carpool lanes on State Route 167 if they pay a toll.
The Washington Department of Transportation set the project up as a congestion-management scheme, which means that the toll rates will vary depending on the level of congestion.
Plans call for tolls to range between 50 cents and $9 for the nine-mile stretch between Renton and Auburn, south of Seattle. If traffic in the HOT lane slows too much, the lane reverts to HOV only.
On the first Monday morning commute, the highest toll paid was $2, while traffic volume in the carpool lane increased about 10% over previous norms, Transportation Department officials said.
Toll collection is entirely electronic, and would-be users have to acquire electronic transponders. They are the same transponders used for electronic toll collection on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.
“It’s not a moneymaker for the state; it’s to keep traffic moving efficiently,” said department spokeswoman Victoria Tobin. “The money that goes into the tolls will be put into the project to pay for operations and maintenance, and the extra state patrols that we’re making.
The total project cost was about $17.9 million, of which the federal government contributed about $2.8 million.