Drivers say new $15 toll has them avoiding SR 167

Drivers on State Route 167 aren’t mincing words about the new $15 toll. In fact, many say it is taking no toll on them because they aren’t paying.

It’s been 10 days since WSDOT raised peak tolls.

The state hoped the higher toll would create a clearer lane for those willing to pony up the extra money. But some drivers aren’t buying it.

Photographer Bill Skok and I drove on SR 167 in the thick of the afternoon commute, the toll was $12.75.

The toll in the HOT lanes southbound rose to $15, just after 3 o’clock this afternoon.

And it didn’t seem to budge.

Trying to figure out the tolls at a given time in the HOT lanes on State Route 167 is a lot like predicting spring weather in the Pacific Northwest, just wait a minute and it will change.

That’s what happened as we headed south on this rainy Monday afternoon.  The toll was $12. We drove less than a mile and it dropped nearly in half.

“But I take the back roads,” said a driver who declined to give her name. “I don’t go on the HOV lanes.  No, I don’t use it.”

This driver says she avoids 167 as much as she can.

“I just heard it’s going to be too much money for the ones that use it,” she said. “They gotta work extra hours to pay for the HOV lanes.”

And she is not alone.

“I think maybe some people can afford it,” said Brendan Crosser-McGay of Renton. “But I mean if you’re some Regular Joe working along here, it seems a lot.”

We took our own very unscientific survey of just how often the toll in the HOT lanes on 167 reaches $15.

We recorded the DOT cam on March 1st, the first day of the new higher toll, and it was at its peak.  Then the same thing Monday, just as the afternoon clock struck 3, the toll went to $15.  And there it seemed to stay.

But Crosser-McGay says a higher toll is no way to ease congestion.

“Make some more buses or some more trains or something like that.,” he said. “I mean South King County has very little like mass transit options. And I hate that. I would love to be able to take the bus to anywhere or take a train somewhere and yet we get our crappy highways.”

WSDOT says it is too early to say what difference the higher toll is making.  They want to wait until drivers have had a chance to adjust their behavior. They say they should know more in a month.

KIRO 7 will check back then and let you know how it’s going.