Ridership slowly growing along 495 Express Lanes

WASHINGTON – Tolls are rising as more drivers take the Express Lanes on the Beltway, but there are still fewer vehicles in the lanes than projected before the lanes opened.

Transurban, which operates the lanes, says the average toll charged during July, August and September rose to $1.86. It was $1.71 in the preceding three months.

On average, 37,574 drivers used the Express Lanes each workday in July, August and September. That is up from 34,974 in April, May and June, and from 26,294 in January, February and March – the first full quarter the lanes were open.

Initial projections for the lanes, made prior to the economy faltering several years ago, said that more than 66,000 trips would be made each weekday within the first year.

Drivers paid $4.76 million in tolls during the most recent quarter, with a single-day high of $108,493 on Sept. 12 when a record 47,303 drivers used all or part of the lanes.

The highest toll charged this quarter was $8.90 for a full trip, up from $7.55 in the spring.

Only 9 percent of drivers in the lanes are getting a free trip as a high occupancy vehicle. Drivers are entitled to a free trip if there are three or more people in the car, and their EZPass Flex is switched to HOV mode. Buses are also entitled to free trips.

Transurban is also paying to build the tolled express lanes along Interstate 95 in Virginia.

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