New $15 Peak Toll is costing SR 167 commuters more; state insists speeds are up

KING COUNTY, Wash. — One month in, the new $15 peak toll on State Route 167 is indeed costing drivers who use those lanes a lot more.

The state promised that those who paid more would move faster.

And a spokesman for the state department of transportation says that’s happening.

They say now the commuters are driving 50-to-55 miles per hour.  And if you’re one of them, you’re definitely paying more.

The signs are all there. The new higher peak time tolls on State Route 167 are definitely costing those willing to jump into the HOV lane without another passenger.

Auburn resident Desi Mayo says he does pay the toll.  And he knows he’s paying more.

“And I don’t get there any faster if the rates are higher,” he said.

Other drivers say they are avoiding the toll lanes altogether.

“Especially with the inflation,” said Jamila Wells, who lives in Kent. “And like you can’t even pay rent. Like how can you pay $15 a day for 30 seconds’ (faster drive) to be in the HOV.”

KIRO 7 has been pressing WSDOT to give us an update on just how much more these tolls are costing drivers following the change.

The agency says before the peak time toll jumped to $15, the average for a northbound commuter on SR 167 was $5.29.  Now the average is $7.44.  For southbound commuters, the toll averaged $7.50. Now the average is $11.22.

“It’s early, said WSDOT’s Chris Foster, “but we are seeing some improvement in some areas.”

He says the data show that the $15 toll kicks in just 40% of the time, compared to 58% during peak times before March 1st.

“Drivers are seeing the dollar rate of $15 less often than they were seeing the maximum rate of $9 for (SR) 167 and $10 for (Interstate) 405,” Foster said.

Without this little guy, Dorothy Schlimme, her grandson resting inside a stroller, says she skips the peak toll lanes, too.

“We’re already paying way above what we can afford,” she said.

Reagan Dunn, King County Council vice chair who represents this district, says he has heard that, too.  In fact, he has a special name for these toll lanes “limousine lanes.”  He says whether or not they pay the toll, all commuters are carrying the financial burden because the general purpose lanes are picking up the slack.