Drivers hit with high toll rate on Express Lanes

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – It’s been a question since the 495 Express Lanes were first proposed on the Beltway in Virginia: How much will people be willing to pay to save time?

Wednesday morning put that question to the test.

The rain made the morning commute along the Capital Beltway slow and dreary. For many drivers, the faster ride on the Express Lanes may have looked enticing — until they saw the toll rate.

Alexandria resident Brian Downey tweeted his surprise at the $9.50 toll.

He opted to skip the express lanes and stayed in the traffic jam in the main lanes.

Downey was late for work. But he told WTOP later that for his trip from Alexandria to Montgomery County, $5 is about as much as he is willing to pay. He’s been making the same commute for 10 years.

Wednesday’s peak travel time rate was not the highest it’s been. Michael McGurk, a spokesman for Transurban — which operates the 495 Express Lanes — says they have charged as much as $9.75 at times for vehicles driving the entire 14- miles.

He says a day like Wednesday, when traffic was jammed in the main lanes, is is the type of day for which the express lanes were designed.

“There’s gonna be more traffic on the general purpose lanes, more demand for the express lanes and the toll prices are going to reflect that and be higher to actually manage congestion on the lanes,” he says.

The variable price of the toll is posted at the entrances to the express lanes.

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