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Big rigs banned on Express Lanes

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

TYSONS CORNER, Va. – Don’t expect to see 18-wheelers on the Capital Beltway’s Express Lanes when they open in December.

Project leaders say trucks with more than two axles will not be allowed to use the lanes that promise a speedy commute.

Speeds in the Express Lanes on the all-electronic toll road are supposed to be kept at a minimum of 55 mph, even during rush hours. Keeping trucks out of the lanes is part of the strategy to keep the lanes free flowing.

In contrast, Maryland allows big rigs on the InterCounty Connector – another all- electronic toll road.

By the end of 2012, two new Express Lanes will be open in each direction between Springfield and just north of the Dulles Toll Road.

Carpools with three or more people can use the lanes for free. Those vehicles will need the new E-ZPass Flex transponder to ride in the lanes. It has a switch that allows drivers to toggle between High Occupancy Vehicle mode of three or more people to non-HOV mode of fewer than three people.

Virginia State Police are anticipating some riders might leave the switch in HOV mode permanently to try to ride in the lanes for free. They are dedicating a force of state troopers to constantly monitor the lanes and spot HOV cheaters.

Technology will alert police when a car has the flex transponder switched to carpool mode.

Cars with fewer than three people can use the lanes, but those vehicles will have to pay a variable toll that will rise and fall depending on how much traffic is in the lanes.

The current cost estimate of the Express Lanes project is $1.9 billion. The project is being funded with both public and private money.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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