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2nd set of L.A. toll lanes may open on 10 Freeway by late January

Less than two weeks after unveiling the county's first toll lanes along an 11-mile stretch of the 110 Freeway, Los Angeles transportation officials this week cheered what they called a "successful opening" and said they were on track to begin operating another toll lane –- on 14 miles of the 10 Freeway -- as early as late January 2013.

The toll lanes on the 110 Freeway opened Nov. 10, running from Adams Boulevard just south of downtown to the 91 Freeway. The impending toll lanes on the 10 Freeway will run between Union Station and the I-605.

Placed on top of carpool lanes that were previously limited to vehicles with two or more passengers, the new ExpressLanes can now also be used by single-passenger motorists, as long as they have purchased a transponder that electronically records their trips. The tolls range between 25 cents and $1.40 a mile, depending on traffic. Officials say toll drivers can now shave between two and three minutes a mile off their commutes.

For the new lanes on the 10 Freeway, officials built an additional toll lane in each direction between the 605 and 710 Freeways.

Car poolers will not have to pay the fare but still need to follow the carpool restrictions for each freeway and purchase a transponder to use the lanes.

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a news release Monday they have already issued more than 50,000 transponders. Shortly before the lanes opened on the 110, officials said they had issued more than 30,000, meaning they probably issued about 20,000 in just the last nine days.

"We encourage San Gabriel Valley commuters to get their FasTrak transponders now so they will be ready to enjoy all the benefits of the ExpressLanes when the lanes open on the 10 Freeway next year," Metro board member and Duarte Mayor John Fasana said in the release.

"With the successful opening of the I-110 ExpressLanes, we look forward to seeing how the I-10 ExpressLanes will reduce traffic congestion in the San Gabriel Valley," Fasana said.

Though officials and academics often tout the benefits of so-called "congestion pricing," many motorists have grumbled over having to pay for a transponder to use the lanes and complained that the project seemed like a government move to reach into their wallets.

Stephanie Wiggins, Metro's executive in charge of the project, said both stretches of ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 Freeway are part of a one-year, federally funded demonstration project that will be rigorously evaluated before officials decide whether to continue or possibly start similar projects on other freeways.

After a year of operating, Wiggins said she expects the tolls to raise between $18 million and $20 million, with costs not to exceed about $10 million. Any additional profit will be reinvested in transit in the 110 and10 Freeway corridors, Wiggins said.

For more information on the program, or for instructions on how to get a transponder (necessary for anyone who wants to use the lanes, including motorcyclists, car poolers and those with hybrid/electric cars, among others) visit metroexpresslanes.net

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-- Ari Bloomekatz

 
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