Drivers will soon be able to enter and exit South King County's HOT lanes along most of their nine-mile length.
Crossing the double white lines on state Route 167 earns drivers a $124 ticket. But a four-week project this summer will erase the second of the two lines on most of the route.
The double white lines were meant to prevent erratic lane changes, but they also make drivers miss their exits. Responding to complaints, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced the change Tuesday, the day it awarded a $242,000 contract to the company Specialized Pavement Marking to remove stripes and update signs. It's part of a federally funded $520,000 project that will carry out and evaluate the change, with a final report due in fall 2015.
The restrictions will remain for 1 to 2 miles at the ends of the lanes to keep drivers from merging into them at the last minute.
The six-year-old HOT lanes -- short for High Occupancy Toll -- run from Auburn to Renton and are open to carpoolers as well as single drivers who pay an electronic toll that varies from 50 cents to $9 depending on traffic.
For an average toll of $2.25 during peak morning traffic, northbound drivers save an average of nine minutes, WSDOT says. Southbound drivers during peak afternoon traffic save six minutes for $1.50, the agency says.
WSDOT will extend the southbound HOT lanes into Pacific and across the Pierce County line as part of an $82 million project due to start next year.