WSDOT putting the express in the I-5 express lanes

Friday, July 20, 2012

From the Washington State Department of Transportation

We’re not ready to call them the Starbucks Express-o lanes yet, (but we might if the state offered up naming rights!) On Monday, July 23, the I-5 express lanes will officially be automated. It will take just 15 minutes to switch the lanes from southbound to northbound. Crews will open the northbound lanes to traffic at 11:15 a.m. Monday through Friday. Until now, traffic crews allocated an hour to drive the nine miles and manually switch the gates and the signs. Technology like Ethernet connections and fiber optic cable helped make this $6.6 million project possible. 


maxyak,  July 20, 2012 at 7:54 AM  

Hmm. A friend of mine was first on the northbound express lanes a few days ago and passed the last southbound car. That's right - cars headed opposite directions were allowed onto the express lanes. They were paying attention and avoided each other without incident, but I wonder if this was a test run of the automated system. If so, I hope they've worked out the kinks...

David In Shoreline,  July 20, 2012 at 12:32 PM  

Maxyak - is it possible that the car she passed was a State Patrol trooper or a WSDOT vehicle?

The reason that I ask is because the express lane switching procedures is designed to eliminate the situation you mentioned.

1> All southbound entrance gates to the express lanes are closed.

2> A WSDOT employee drives the entire express lanes to verify there are no more vehicles on the road.

3> Only once the road has been verified to be clear do they open the lanes to northbound drivers.

It's the same procedure with the automated system as it was with the old manual system. Now they just use video cameras and the lane occupancy detecting loops to verify the roadway is clear instead of having someone drive it. In theory it should be just as fool-proof.

Anonymous,  July 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM  

If the southbound car was not a WSDOT vehicle or WSP, I'm willing to bet it was someone who wrongly entered going south. The entrance/exit on 42nd in the U-district is always open, it serves as an entrance to southbound traffic and an exit to northbound traffic. Even though there are do not enter signs when traffic is northbound, I've seen people drive up the ramp, they usually figure it out and do a u-turn when possible. No matter how well something is engineered, the users still have to be smart enough to use it properly, when people ignore do not enter signs and road blocks, it's not WSDOT's fault.

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