In an effort to relieve congestion, 14 miles of tolled "express'' lanes will open Saturday on the San Bernardino (10) Freeway, charging solo drivers various rates for the privilege of bypassing congestion.
The ExpressLanes stretch along the 10 Freeway between the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway and Union Station/Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles. The toll system goes into effect at midnight.
"We've got the worst traffic in the United States of America," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a press conference in the City of El Monte. "We've got to have a lot of tools in the toolbox to address congestion in this region. We've got to be smarter with respect to the way we use our freeways.''
All motorists who use the ExpressLanes must have a transponder in their vehicle and have an active account. Carpooling motorists will not be charged for using the lanes, but still must have a transponder. A switch on the transponder lets the system know if drivers are carpooling or driving alone.
A carpool is considered two or more people most of the day, but carpools must have three or more during rush hours to avoid the toll.
Motorists who open ExpressLanes FasTrak accounts and obtain transponders for their cars will be charged between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile, depending on traffic. If traffic slows to below 45 mph in the lanes, solo drivers will be alerted via digital signs and barred from entering.
The ExpressLanes are the area's second foray into toll roads. In November, an 11-mile stretch of toll lanes opened on the Harbor (110) Freeway between the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in the Gardena area and Adams Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles.
According to Metro, more than 100,000 transponders have been issued since last summer.
Backers of the program say the toll lanes are beneficial to all motorists because they redistribute traffic across all lanes of the freeway.
To get a transponder, drivers need to open an account with a minimum of $40 for customers who use a credit or debit card. Drivers opening an account with cash or a check will have to pay a $25 deposit for the transponder and start with a minimum balance of $50.
Subsidies are available for Los Angeles County families of three with an annual income at or below $37,060.
The $290 million ExpressLanes project was funded in part by a $210 million federal grant.