New US toll lanes allow drivers to pay to avoid congestion

Transportation agencies are increasingly looking to reduce congestion and make more use of sometimes under-utilised high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Some are developing plans to allow vehicles that don't have the required number of passengers to use the lanes if they are willing to pay, says USA Today.

Drivers are charged from 25 cents to more than $8 to travel the quicker route. There are high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in Seattle, Denver, San Diego, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. Construction in at least five states is slated to begin in the next year.

In Seattle:

  • A 10-mile stretch of HOT lanes opened in May on State Road 167, after the state Department of Transportation converted two lanes from HOV-2.

  • Vehicles with two occupants can use the lane for free; drivers have already paid as much as $8.50 to use the highway during rush hour.

    In Denver:

  • HOT lanes on I-25 exceeded expectations when they raked in $2.1 million in revenue, more than double the projected $800,000, during the first year of operation.

  • The lanes, which opened in June 2006, use toll rates that vary depending on the time of day, from 50 cents to $3.25, while allowing vehicles with two or more occupants to travel for free.

    In Miami:

  • The first nine miles of a HOT lane project will be completed by the end of the summer, adding one congestion-priced lane that will allow vehicles with three occupants to travel for free, an increase from the current two-person requirement.

  • By 2010, there will be two HOT lanes on 21 miles of I-95 between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, with tolls from 25 cents to $2 for an 8-mile trek.

    Source: Katharine Lackey, New toll lanes make drivers pay to avoid congestion, USA Today, August 5, 2008.

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