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L.A.'s first freeway toll lanes off to smooth start, officials say

November 13, 2012 | 12:31 pm

Cameras and electronic sensors stand over the express lane South of the Slauson Ave. transit station on the 110 freeway on Nov. 9. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

The new toll lanes on the 110 Freeway were running smoothly early Tuesday, the first business day since the lanes opened on Saturday.

“This is a very good start on our first real rush hour,” said Stephanie Wiggins, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority official in charge of the project. Wiggins estimated the traffic flow in the new lanes was 80% to 85% of the volume last Tuesday, a figure she said surpassed Metro’s expectations on the program’s first commute day.

Before changing to toll routes, the lanes were open only to high occupancy vehicles with two or more passengers. The lower capacity on Tuesday suggests that the lanes are moving faster.

The express lanes, the county’s first, sit on an 11-mile stretch of converted carpool lanes from Adams Boulevard just south of downtown to the Harbor Gateway Transit Center near Torrance and the 91 Freeway.

Solo motorists can now pay to enter these express lanes. Carpools and motorcyclists can still pass through for free but must have an electronic FasTrak transponder to access the lane.

Tolls vary from 25 cents to $1.40 a mile, depending on congestion and demand. Officials aim to keep travel speeds in the express lanes at least 45 miles per hour. They estimate the average toll for a motorist will be between $4 and $7 a trip, although it could be as much as $15.40. Officials estimate the lanes could save  motorists as much as two to three minutes a mile.

Wiggins said she expects a ramp-up in toll lane use in the coming weeks as more transponders are distributed. Hard figures for toll lane traffic are expected later this week.

“A lot of people want to see and experience the program first,” Wiggins said. “It’s a new system, and we know that its’ going to take a while for people to learn how the system works.”


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-- Christine Mai-Duc

Photo: Cameras and electronic sensors track traffic in the 110 Freeway toll lanes. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times