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Maryland Considering 'HOT' Lanes on the Beltway?

If you commute from Germantown, would you use pay lanes?

The 495 Express or HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes—14 miles of separate lanes stretching between the Springfield interchange and just north of the Dulles Toll Road—opened Nov. 17, offering motorists on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway a new pay model, with lane tolls changing based on real-time traffic conditions.

The project's goal was to bring in more revenue to Virginia, while easing traffic congestion.

A Maryland Department of Transportation website states that the HOT lanes approach is not under consideration in Maryland, mainly due to “limitations on the ability to enforce lane restrictions and occupancy requirements.”

However, Maryland is investigating creating “Express Lanes” which would feature EZ-Pass-like toll collection, and allow commuters to use the lanes as they choose. The site’s FAQ says that the Express Lanes could affect existing HOV lanes, but will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Students at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School for Engineering proposed a project to “investigate the acceptability of HOT lanes and the willingness to pay for their use from the traveler perspective.” 

The study also would look to learn if travelers would be flexible enough to change their commuting behaviors "in response to congestion pricing" and if they would view it as a "more sustainable way to access work, shopping and leisure places."

As for how the Virginia lanes are doing, WJLA recently reported that in the first six weeks of operation, the HOT Lanes project lost $11.3 million. The report credited the Washington Examiner with the initial investigation.

A Washington Business Journal survey launched over the weekend bolstered reports questioning the success of the new lanes so far. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said that they had not used the paid lanes yet.


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