What Drivers Need to Know About New I-95 Express LanesAuthor: Portner & Shure
The long-awaited express E-ZPass lanes on Interstate 95 in the Virginia and Washington, D.C. area is expected to open this month. These new lanes will extend and add capacity to the HOV lanes already present on 95 to create a 29 mile stretch of HOV/Express lanes. This will stretch from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. Many drivers in the area are confused about what devices will be needed, how much it costs to use these lanes, how many people need to be in the car, and what is an E-ZPass Flex transponder. The Virginia Department of Transportation and the company Transurban will operate the lanes and have spent months trying to educate drivers in advance of the opening.
First, the E-ZPass Flex transponder should only be purchased and used if you will, at least occasionally, drive in the express lanes with at least two passengers. This device is flexible because it allows the driver to switch in and out of a carpool setting. As a result, when driving with at least two passengers and the device is switched to HOV mode, no toll will be assessed. However, if you do not plan on carpooling in the express lanes, the regular E-ZPass device will still work and a toll will be assessed.
Drivers should also know that Virginia State Police can detect when the
transponder is in HOV mode and can count the number of occupants in the
car. If the driver is using the express lanes with the HOV mode on to
avoid paying tolls when not carpooling, they can be ticketed by police.
This year, Virginia eliminated the monthly fee on E-ZPass accounts in a move to promote carpooling using the express lanes and a flex transponder. However, if you have an E-ZPass Flex device and do not use it for carpooling at least once in the first six months, your account will be charged a $10 fee.
In terms of the cost for using the express lanes, the toll varies and does not have a limit as to how high it can go. Nevertheless, the normal average rate is predicted to be between $6 and $8. There are no rate periods because tolls will rise or fall depending on traffic. There will never be a time when it is free to use the express lanes (unless operating a carpool with the flex device). The cost for using the express lanes is likely to be lowest when driving during off-peak times when traffic volume is lowest. There will be two signs before choosing to take the express lanes that show the cost, and it is the price shown on the second sign that will be what you pay.
Traffic along 95 throughout Virginia is some of the worst in the country, making car, truck, and motorcycle accidents a common occurrence. However, with this new 29 mile stretch of express lanes and the incentive to avoid paying tolls when driving with at least two passengers, traffic should improve and the number of accidents should diminish.
If you or a family member has been injured or killed in an automobile accident, truck, bus or motorcycle accident, and would like a free legal consultation or if you would like more information on car accidents in Maryland please feel free to contact our office at (855) 954-4141 or visit us online.