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Express Toll Lanes in Your Future?

This letter contains an excellent summary of questions travelers have raised about the proposal to create express toll lanes along I-95/395 where drivers are used to seeing the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. This week a set of forums in Northern Virginia will offer a chance to get some answers and ask more questions about this project, which is bound to change the commute for many thousands of people.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I'm concerned that the conversion of I-95/I-395 HOV lanes to HOT [high occupancy or toll] lanes is a fait accompli and that commuters do not understand the ramifications.
I use the HOV lanes daily from Springfield to the Pentagon at 6:30 a.m. and back to Springfield at 5 p.m.

Issues:
The toll will be in place all the time. Weekends, nights and middays are no longer free. This removes the incentive for commuters to travel early in the morning or later in the evening.
The taxpayers already own the road, how can we sell it to a contractor?
This will put more cars on the road, not reduce the number of vehicles (look at how many people were willing to pay $25,000 to get in the HOV lanes by buying a hybrid).
For every car currently using the HOV that decides to pay the toll instead of carpooling, two more cars are on the road.
The guarantee of going the speed limit is impossible to meet, of my 10 trips a week there are at least seven times we are below the speed limit.
Creating a third lane eliminates or greatly reduces the shoulders, now we will have major delays for accidents, average commute time will increase for those of us using the lanes under the current rules.
No one has addressed the current bottlenecks at the Pentagon and the District exit ramps in the morning. If the exit ramps can't handle two lanes of traffic, how will they handle three?
How will the toll be collected? Does everyone have to pass through a point where you either pay the toll or prove that you have three people in the car? Another bottleneck.
How will the police be able to tell if you paid the toll?

Questions:
Has any analysis been conducted?
Any surveys conducted to see how many people will pay the toll?
Any survey of business to see how many will reimburse employees' tolls?
Has anyone compared hybrid sales in Northern Virginia to an area without the HOV incentive?

Solutions:
Try this where there are no HOV lanes.
If you really want to raise money and get cars off the road, put the toll in the regular lanes.

Discussions:
Every politician states that the purpose is to reduce congestion.
The expert in Virginia's Department of Transportation finally admitted to me that this is the only way the state thinks it can raise money.
The HOV lanes are a great system that needs very little government intrusion, let's keep it that way. I see slugging dying out in a few years of HOT being implemented. If you are new to Washington and told you can pick up two strangers or pay $10 to get to work quickly, which would you choose?

Bill Aldridge
Springfield

The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a set of meetings this week and next about the HOT lane proposal's northern and southern portions.

The northern portion, now under environmental review, would run between Eads Street near the Pentagon and Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The southern stretch would go from Dumfries to Massaponax.

Here's the schedule. For all the forums, the doors open at 7 p.m., with presentations at 7:30 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m.
Tonight: Edison High School, 5801 Franconia Road, Alexandria.
Tuesday: Wakefield High School, 4901 South Chesterfield Road, Arlington.
Wednesday: Forest Park High School, 15721 Spriggs Road, Woodbridge.
Thursday: Wingate Inn, Mary Washington Pavilion East, 20 Sanford Drive, Fredericksburg.
July 30: Spotsylvania County School Administrative Services, 8020 River Stone Drive, Spotsylvania.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 23, 2007; 9:53 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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