Toll gantry installation underway along I-95


Toll gantries like these on the Capital Beltway will begin appearing along the future 95 Express Lanes. (Photo courtesy of Fluor-Lane construction company)

Drivers along Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia can see workers installing the first of 30 overhead toll gantries in preparation for the opening of the 95 Express Lanes in early 2015.

When we reached this stage in the construction of the express lanes on the Capital Beltway, some commuters in the regular lanes were concerned the new gantries would read their E-ZPasses and charge their accounts. Didn’t happen then, and there’s no reason to fear it will happen now.

Blue line shows 95 Express Lanes. Green line shows 495 Express Lanes. (Map courtesy of Transurban (USA) Operations Inc.)
Blue line shows 95 Express Lanes. Green line shows 495 Express Lanes. (Map courtesy of Transurban (USA) Operations Inc.)

The first of these new toll gantries was placed over the I-395 High Occupancy Vehicle lanes near Edsall Road. That’s the northern end of the express lanes. In the months ahead, the rest of the gantries will be placed at 15 locations along the 29-mile express lanes corridor, most of which are on I-95. The gantries are the infrastructure of the express lanes. They house the traffic sensors, E-ZPass readers, vehicle detection systems and cameras that will be used to manage the all-electronic tolling system.

An expert in highway electronic systems pointed out to me recently that if I’ve seen one tolled highway, I’ve seen one tolled highway. No two are quite the same. And that’s going to be true for drivers who use the Beltway lanes, then use the I-95 lanes. We’ll review those differences before the new lanes are ready to open. But one thing will be the same: Drivers will need either a regular E-ZPass or, if they want to claim the free ride for carpoolers, an E-ZPass Flex.

The private operators of the 95 Express Lanes, the same company that operates the 495 Express Lanes, will vary the toll to keep traffic flowing and avoid congestion.

The key thing for now is that I-95 drivers don’t have to worry about any of this for now. They can pass near the gantries without being charged any tolls.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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