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Express Lanes could be testing ground for nation

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The new Express Lanes on I-495 may be a testing ground for the rest of the nation. That’s because a new survey shows drivers across the country seem to like the idea of paying to avoid traffic jams.

A survey of 1,000 drives from across the country yielded transportation insiders some surprising results when it comes to using the Express Lanes.

“Seventy-four percent said they would actually use the lanes if they were available to them,” says Patrick Jones, the director of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.

Most drivers said they didn’t mind paying for it.

“On average, about $5 to save 15 minutes of time,” says Matthew Click, the vice president of HNTB Corp. Infrastructure Consultants.

Virginia drivers already have the chance to put their money where their mouth is and it seems to be a different story. The new I-495 Express Lanes lost more than $11 million in the first six weeks.

“Two weeks ago I heard they were doing a free weekend. If that doesn’t help I don’t know what will,” says Satwant William.

Transurban, the agency that administers the Express Lanes, says five times the amount of drivers used the HOT lanes on the free weekend.

“There wasn’t anybody on it so it was kind of neat, but I haven’t been on it otherwise,” says Marcey Lopez. But that’s too early to see if that will translate into more regular users.

Some drivers avoid using the Express Lanes because they don’t have an E-ZPass. Larry Stratton says getting one is a hassle.

“The information they require, bank account, all that, frees up front, and I think, that’s what I might be a turnoff for a lot of people, looking at those fees,” says Stratton.

Transurban says they’re still in a ramp up period and expecting usage to grow, but their latest report says usage is up some 13 percent this last quarter.

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