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I-495 Express Lanes free this weekend

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This weekend, you can drive on the new I-495 Express Lanes for the first time without paying a toll or owning an E-ZPass. But is the promotion savvy marketing or a sign that the billion dollar project isn’t making as much money as anticipated?

For every driver who uses the HOT lanes, you’ll find plenty more like Christine Weiss.

“I have not used them yet," she says.

But Weiss is just the person Transurban operators of the HOT lanes are targeting this weekend, someone willing to take some free time to give the HOT lanes a chance for free.

“I’m going to try them. Great idea," Weiss says.

Several drivers say the new lanes are confusing, but from midnight Friday until midnight Sunday, the 14-mile stretch of HOT lanes on I-495 will be free to all.

“It’s a difficult thing for some people to get used to,” says Mike McGurk with Transurban.

McGurk says the freebie will allow drivers to get familiar with some of the turns and ramps, especially drivers who have stayed away so far.

“Of course we want more travelers out there, but we obviously understand these are early days and we’re going to be out here for a long time,” he says.

Radio ads are just one of the ways Transurban is trying to increase business. A report from February showed hot HOT lanes lost more than $11 million in the first six weeks of operation and a slow economic recovery could be a factor. 

"I think they're under utilized right now. That's my sense," says Sylvia Cantrell. 

Drivers who already have an E-Z pass won't be charged for using the lanes this weekend.

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