WASHINGTON — The 495 Express Lanes are marking their fifth anniversary. Transurban, the company that built and manages the toll lanes, says they are saving millions of drivers millions of hours.
Transurban says it’s had 3.5 million customers making 67 million trips in the toll lanes over the past 5 years. The company estimates that the Express Lanes have saved customers more than 5 million hours.
“We’ve seen not only time saving for customers in the 495 Express lanes, but also for customers in the regular lanes too. We’re seeing reduced travel time in those regular lanes on 495,” said Mike McGurk, spokesman for Transurban.
But the time saved for drivers may depend on exactly how far the driver must travel.
“A driver from (I)-95 to (I)-66 might say they save time, but a driver who heads north of the Dulles Toll Road would perhaps beg to differ,” WTOP Traffic’s Dave Dildine says.
The problem is the express lanes end before the American Legion bridge in Maryland. So while drivers save time farther south on the Beltway, they can get routinely stacked up north of Tyson’s Corner if they’re bound for Maryland.
“A lot of traffic gets shunted north of the (Dulles) Toll Road toward the northern end of the 495 Express Lanes, and that’s where you find a lot of unhappy campers in both the main and the Express Lanes,” Dildine said.
Transurban uses dynamic toll pricing to manage traffic flow — the higher the demand for the toll lanes, the higher the price — and that’s been a bone of contention among some drivers, some of whom derisively call the Express Lanes, “Lexus Lanes.”
“We’ve seen tolls approach $30 on the Express Lanes during peak periods, and just the sight of a $30 toll, especially for a 9 or 10 mile trip, that’s enough to make a lot of folks’ blood boil,” Dildine said.
Transurban says the Express lanes have been a boon for car poolers and bus passengers.
“Carpool trips on the 495 Express Lanes, comparing our first year to our fifth year, we’ve seen those increase by more than 4 times. We’ve seen the bus trips increase-compared to year one to year five, 75 percent more bus trips,” McGurk said.
Transurban also says that in the past five years, the Express Lanes have helped first responders more quickly reach people in need.