WASHINGTON — Drivers have been able to use the I-95 Express Lanes for free, but starting Monday morning, the lanes’ tolls begin.
“Enforcement begins [Monday],” says Virginia State Police Captain James DeFord, commander of the state police department’s Northern Virginia division.
While tolling begins at 2 a.m., Virginia State Police officers took time Sunday to show how they will catch express lane violators — by using newly-installed equipment in their patrol cars.
Officers met with the media for the demo at the Park-n-Ride Commuter lot in Prince William County, right off of I-95 by Occoquan/Route 123.
“It’s definitely going to be a learning process,” says state trooper Joy Gary, comparing this learning curve to when the 495 express lanes opened.
Gary’s police cruiser was decked out with EZ pass readers in each backseat side window — one on the left, one on the right. The readers feed to her computer, mounted to the side of the driver’s seat.
Gary says the readers can determine if it’s a regular EZ pass or EZ Flex. If you have an EZ Flex, the readers can tell if it’s in toll mode or HOV mode.
Under HOV mode, for instance, officers can identify the car and determine if there are three or more passengers inside. That helps determine if drivers should be ticketed or not.
“It’s just like an HOV violation: $125 for the first offense; $250 for a second,” DeFord says. “And then a third in five years is $500, and a fourth in five-years is $1,000.”
Apparently, several motorists have taken advantage of the free I-95 Express Lanes. The southern end saw bumper-to-bumper traffic late Friday and Saturday.
The southern extension of the lanes opened early December, but weren’t tolled. As a result, many travelers found themselves trapped in 10-mile traffic jams.
By Saturday afternoon, the line to exit the express lanes began south of Dale City. Some drivers said it took nearly two hours to get away from them. Traffic was heavy in the main lanes throughout Stafford County.
For more information about the toll lanes, read WTOP’s I-95 express lanes FAQ.
WTOP’s Dave Dildine contributed to this report.