Heads up, Westside commuters. The Metro ExpressLanes route along 14 miles of the Interstate 10 between the San Gabriel Valley and downtown Los Angeles is scheduled to open Feb. 23.
All drivers, whether driving alone or in a carpool, are required to have a transponder to use the Metro ExpressLanes.
An extra lane was specially constructed for this program to keep traffic moving.
Automobile Club of Southern California members will receive a 20 percent discount on the transponders, which can be purchased on the club's website or at branch offices. Transponders obtained at Auto Club branches will have $40 in preloaded toll credit, but members will only be charged $32.
The balance of the ExpressLanes $290 million project was funded by Metro, partly through sales tax receipts. The project is a one-year experiment, and Metro and Caltrans will survey traffic speeds and roadway capacity on the 110 freeway to see if variable tolls can improve speeds.
Another ExpressLanes route along the Harbor (110) opened in November, ending the 70-year L.A. tradition of a completely "free" freeway system.
Metro computers will check the speeds on the tollway, and raise or lower the single-person toll amount to keep traffic moving at above 45 miles per hour.
If traffic gets very bad, the signs will bar solo drivers and say "HOV Only."
Metro Silver Line buses and carpools with at least two people—and a transponder—onboard will continue to use the center lanes with those who choose to pay.
Auto Club members can also acquire transponders online with the AAA discount at aaa.com/metroexpresslanes. Drivers must activate their transponders after purchase by establishing accounts with Metro.
"The 110 Freeway ExpressLanes have already become very popular with our members, who so far have purchased nearly 40,000 transponders in Auto Club branches and online," said Steve Finnegan, the Auto Club's government affairs manager.
Finnegan advises members not to wait until the last minute to visit their local branch for a transponder, since they are very popular.
The FastTrak transponders available at Auto Club branches can be used for automatic toll payments on all toll roads and express lanes in California, including the 91 Express Lanes and toll roads in Orange and San Diego counties.
The program will enable solo drivers to ride on parts of the former I-110 and I-10 carpool-only lanes by paying a variable toll between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile, depending on the traffic congestion in the lanes. Toll rates in other counties differ.
Carpool drivers will not be charged tolls to use the Metro ExpressLanes. For more information about Metro ExpressLanes, visit the project website or read the Westways article on the ExpressLanes project and other Southern California toll lanes.