The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
EZ-Pass transponders designed for tolled express lanes
BY SCOTT SHENK
The new electronically tolled express lanes on Interstates 95 and 495 haven’t opened yet, but the transponders drivers will need to use them are now available.
The Virginia Department of Transportation this week announced the launch of the new E–ZPass Flex transponder, designed specifically for use on the express lanes.
The new transponders are available by several methods.
The easiest way to get one is to visit ezpassva.com.
The only local place to get one of the new transponders is in Central Park at the AAA store. Wegmans grocery stores will soon carry the transponders.
Users do not purchase the transponders. Instead, there is a one-time fee of $35, which goes toward toll fees.
In September, VDOT will start charging a monthly fee of 50 cents for those who get new or replacement E–ZPasses. Initially the flex transponders will carry the same fee, but in January that will increase to $1, after the expected opening of the I–495 express lanes.
The E–ZPass Flex is different than the regular E–ZPass devices, which have been around for years and allow drivers to avoid stopping at toll booths to pay.
The flex transponders are designated specifically for use on the express lanes, which will not have toll booths. Instead, tolls will be paid electronically on the fly.
The new transponders will allow travelers on the express lanes to switch between toll-paying and free high-occupancy modes.
Vehicles carrying three or more people will be able to use the lanes for free, like the current HOV lanes. All others will pay a toll that varies based on traffic volume.
It’ll be awhile before the transponders will be used on the new I–95 express lanes.
In December, VDOT struck a tentative agreement with Fluor–Transurban, which will cover $843 million of the cost to construct the I–95 express lanes. The state will pay for the remaining $97 million.
The contract between VDOT and Fluor–Transurban still has to be finalized, which is expected to happen this summer. Construction could begin by the end of the year and likely will take three years to complete.
The project is being financed and built under Virginia’s Public–Private Transportation Act. It will add two lanes in the interstate’s median, covering nine miles from Garrisonville to Dumfries.
The project also will expand the already existing Northern Virginia HOV lanes, which stretch 20 miles to Edsall Road in Fairfax County.
Plans call for the eventual extension of the express lanes south into Spotsylvania County.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436