The toll rate will be locked in when they pass under the first toll gantry at the start of the trip and won’t rise or fall for them while they are in the lanes.
What signs am I looking for? When approaching access points, look for the purple and white “E-ZPass” sign followed by “EXPRESS” in black letters. Under some of those signs, drivers will see blocks of black type that state the rules on who pays tolls and who doesn’t.
Beltway drivers can use 495 Express Lanes when the new lanes open this fall.
Below the E-ZPass EXPRESS banner on other signs, drivers will see a message board displaying three tolls. The first two will be current tolls to popular destinations. The bottom line will be the toll all the way to the end of the express lanes.
Preparing to leave the lanes, drivers should look for signs that say “E-ZPass EXPRESS EXIT.” There’s almost always an orange and black sign nearby that says “LEFT EXIT.”
Do I need an E-ZPass? Yes, unless you are riding a motorcycle. If you already have an E-ZPass and don’t plan on carpooling, you are all set. If you want to form a three-person carpool for a free ride, get a new type of transponder called an E-ZPass Flex.
The Flex has a switch. In one setting, it’s a regular E-ZPass and allows the electronic readers to assess the toll. The other setting — announced by a beep as you toggle the switch — tells the reader that you are claiming the carpool exemption.
How do I get one? In Virginia, drivers can apply online at www.ezpassva.com. They also can apply at one of the state’s E-ZPass Service Centers or call 877-762-7824. Virginia charges a monthly fee of 50 cents for the standard transponder. New customers must prepay $35 in tolls. Starting in January, the Flex fee will be $1 a month. It will be waived for drivers who use it regularly in the carpool setting.
Maryland’s E-ZPass program offers the Flex as well as the regular transponder, but the rules are different. Maryland offers three options for buying the Flex: Go to the Maryland program’s Web site at www.ezpassmd.com, call 888-321-6824 or stop by any E-ZPass Maryland Center.
What if I use the lanes without one? Then you didn’t pay your toll. You can go to 495ExpressLanes.com and click on “Missed Toll?” to pay online. In addition to the toll that was in effect at the time you drove, there will be a $1.50 administrative fee. If you don’t pay online, you will get a letter assessing the toll and adding a fee of $12.50. If a driver ignores toll notices, the information will be turned over to a debt collector.
Enforcement? State police will patrol the lanes. They have spots near toll gantries they can stop and monitor compliance with the toll rules. They receive a signal when a nearby driver is using the E-ZPass Flex to claim the carpool exemption. They can count.