ALEXANDRIA, Va. — With the launch of the 95 Express Lanes less than a month away, the toll road operator and Virginia officials are making a final push to get commuters ready.
Transurban and VDOT released a survey earlier this week that found only about one-third of carpoolers and sluggers along the Interstate 95 corridor have an E-ZPass Flex. Others, who don’t ride carpools, also don’t have a regular E-ZPass.
“We want to get the word out that the 95 Express Lanes are coming in December. If you’re a carpooler and you want to continue to travel toll free, you need an E-ZPass. Just flip the switch into HOV ON and you’ll get a toll-free trip,” says Transurban spokeswoman Pierce Coffee.
“People need to know that the HOV lanes from Stafford to Alexandria are changing to Express Lanes. This is a major change and travelers need to do homework now to get ready,” Pierce says.
Any driver can use the 95 Express Lanes all day, every day, if they are willing to pay a toll. But with the E-ZPass Flex, HOV users can ride the lanes for free.
Toll prices will fluctuate. But during most rush hours, expect the toll to be about 50 cents to 80 cents per mile. During off-peak times tolls could drop as low as 20 cents per mile.
The Alexandria end of the lanes could create the most confusion. The 95 Express Lanes end just north of Edsall Road and turn into the regular HOV lanes that exist today from Duke Street to the District line.
During the morning rush, non-HOV users must exit at Edsall Road to take the main lanes or risk getting a ticket. During the afternoon rush, non-HOV users must wait until they reach Edsall Road to enter the Express Lanes along Interstate 395.
“We can expect some confusion in the early days when the Express Lanes open, especially at the northern end near Edsall Road. It is well signed and we’re trying to educate the public, and we’re working with Virginia State Police. But we understand there will be a learning curve,” says Michelle Holland of VDOT Megaprojects.
That doesn’t mean that Virginia State Police won’t hand out HOV violations. The state police plan to have an increased presence in the Edsall Road area to “ease the flow of traffic through the area and assist motorists, spokeswoman Corinne Geller tells WTOP in an email.
Although troopers have the authority to issue warnings to motorists, they can also issue summons for anyone violating the HOV-3 requirement between Alexandria and the District line.
Drivers are encouraged to plan in advance for the shift, Geller says.
Drivers who don’t yet have an E-ZPass can pick one up at Wegmans, Giant, AAA Mid-Atlantic, the DMV or on E-ZPass Virginia’s website. Without an E-ZPass, drivers will get an invoice in the mail with administrative fees.
Motorists with questions about the 95 Express Lanes can check with WTOP Ticketbuster for the answer. Send an email with your question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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