First look at Express Lanes since opening

Max Smith,

WASHINGTON – A first look at the numbers on the 495 Express Lanes show drivers are taking to them slowly since they opened about two weeks ago.

The lanes operator, Transurban, says tolls so far have ranged from $0.25 for the shortest trip during off hours, to $2.70 for a full trip at the busiest times.

The tolls are an indicator of how many people are using the lanes because of the dynamic pricing system that can raise and lower tolls every 15 minutes or so. Tolls go up as congestion in the lanes gets worse to limit the number of drivers.

Before the lanes opened, Transurban estimated that the average toll during rush hour would be between $3 and $6.

The lower tolls so far may indicate that confusion about the lanes and new traffic patterns is deterring drivers from choosing the lanes.

With Transurban’s first public report due out in January, spokeswoman Pierce Coffee will only say “some” drivers are taking advantage of the free rides with carpools and the EZPass Flex transponder.

She says in addition to heeding the safety tips put out after some crashes on opening weekend, drivers should make sure their EZPass is attached to their car’s windshield, and that they only have one EZPass in the car.

Coffee says having a second EZPass, having both an EZPass and an EZPass Flex in the car or holding the EZPass as you drive through the lanes could lead to being charged twice.

Those who have registered their EZPass to be used in multiple cars can get extra velcro strips for their windshield through VDOT.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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