Toll lanes now open on 11-mile stretch of the 110 Freeway
Los Angeles County's first toll lanes opened on the 110 Freeway late Saturday night, a test project that converted 11 miles of carpool lanes to express lanes that drivers can pay to enter.
Stephanie Wiggins, the county transportation official in charge of the program, said that the lanes opened about 10 p.m. and that so far things were running smoothly.
Motorists who want to use the lanes, including carpoolers and motorcyclists, must have a prepaid FasTrak transponder in their vehicle with a corresponding account. Tolls will be electronically deducted. The toll lanes run from the South Bay, near the 91 Freeway, to Adams Boulevard, just south of downtown.
California Highway Patrol officials said there will be an initial "adjustment" period as officers patrol the route, but drivers who do not follow the new ExpressLanes rules could face fines of more than $341.
Tolls will vary between 25 cents and $1.40 a mile based on congestion and demand. That means drivers could pay as much as $15.40 in tolls for a one-way trip along the stretch, but Wiggins said tolls for most motorists are expected to average between $4 and $7 a trip.
Motorcyclists and carpoolers will not be charged the tolls, but still need a transponder with their vehicle. Hybrid and electric cars also need transponders and will have to pay tolls until at least March 1, 2014.
The transponders generally cost $40 if using a debit or credit card, and the payment can be used toward tolls.
Officials hope to keep traffic in the ExpressLanes moving at 45 mph or faster. Wiggins said toll lane users could speed up their commutes by two to three minutes a mile.
If all goes as planned, county officials will unveil 14 miles of toll lanes on the 10 Freeway, from Union Station to the 605 Freeway, early next year.
For more information on the program and instructions on how to purchase a transponder, visit: www.metroexpresslanes.net
-- Ari Bloomekatz
Photo: Cameras and electronic sensors stand over the express lane south of Slauson Avenue. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times