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(L to R) John Fasana, Metro Board Member (and Duarte Councilmember); Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor; Doug Failing, Caltrans District 7 Director; Rita Robinson, Director, LADOT; Stephanie Wiggins, Metro Executive Officer and Frank Quon, Caltrans District 7, Deputy Director, Operations.

FOR WHOM THE LANES TOLL
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 07/2009

HOT lanes demonstration project is still a hot topic.

A project that will convert High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV, or carpool) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on the Harbor (I-110) and San Bernardino Freeways (I-10) is moving ahead and is expected to begin operating by its federal funding deadline of December 31, 2010.

The plan, called ExpressLanes, is for a one-year demonstration project funded by a special $210 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. On I-10, the lanes will be located along the Harbor Transitway between Adams Boulevard and the Artesia Transit Center. The I-10 lanes will be on the El Monte Busway between Alameda Street and the San Gabriel Freeway (I-605).

Demonstration HOT lanes will follow the HOV lane policies in place currently, with the addition of allowing Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs) to enter the lanes for an adjustable fee. The fee will adjust according to the conditions of the system: when traffic is at its lowest, single drivers will pay $.25 per mile; in peak traffic, the rate will top out at $1.40 per mile. Once a driver enters the toll lane, his rate will be fixed for the entire duration of his trip, even if traffic conditions change along the way.

“Congestion pricing uses the power of the marketplace to reduce delay,” said Caltrans District 7 Director Doug Failing at a press conference on June 8. “It will benefit all facility users by providing greater reliability and predictability for their commutes.”

Other speakers at the press conference were Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board Members John Fasana (Duarte City Council member), Rita Robinson (Los Angeles Department of Transportation Director), Mark Ridley-Thomas (Los Angeles County Supervisor), Caltrans District 7 Operations Deputy Frank Quon, and Stephanie Wiggins, Metro Executive Officer. Caltrans and Metro are the lead agencies on this project, along with partners Foothill Transit Agency, Gardena Transit, LADOT, Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) and Torrance Transit.

Several roadway and transit improvements are included. They involve: restriping the enforcement buffer between I-605 and I-710 on the I-10 El Monte Busway to create a second ExpressLane; widening Adams Boulevard and restriping the I-110 Adams off-ramp to create a second right-hand turning lane; and creating new ExpressLanes access transition lanes between the I-110 ExpressLanes and the I-110 general purpose lanes to ease traffic flow,

Also part of the project is the purchase of 57 alternative fuel buses, adding transit service and forming 100 new vanpools, all for use in the lanes. Transit station improvements also are planned at the El Monte and Artesia Transit Centers, as well as construction of a direct connection at Patsaouras Plaza and implementation of demand-based parking rates at meters in downtown Los Angeles.

A series of six public awareness meetings just concluded. Metro and Caltrans will incorporate public comments into a package to present to the Metro Board on July 23. Still under discussion are how best to serve the low-income toll lane users and how to distribute the transponders that will record tolls.

All in all, it seems that only a few wrinkles have to be ironed out to produce a new way of driving in Los Angeles that has the potential to benefit everyone. As Metro’s Fasana summed it up, “Congestion pricing works!”