10 Freeway toll lanes aim to ease traffic

EL MONTE, Calif.

Metro ExpressLanes officially opened on Saturday.

Transportation officials say this fall's conversion on the 110 Freeway was so successful they decided to expand the FastTrak project. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is onboard 100 percent.

"We've got the worst traffic in the United States of America. We've got to have a lot of tools in the tool box to address congestion in this region. We've got to be smarter with respect to the way we use our freeways," the mayor said.

The newly modified Metro ExpressLanes run along a 14-mile span between the 605 interchange and downtown Los Angeles.

From now on, all drivers, whether in a carpool or by themselves, will have to have a transponder to use the lanes. If you have three or more people in your ride, your trek is free during peak traffic - the same goes for two or more people during the off-peak period.

"During certain times of the day when they were carpool lanes, the space was empty. Here, we want to open it up to solo drivers," described Stephanie Wiggins, an executive officer with Metro.

Solo drivers are required to pay a toll to use the high-occupancy lanes - between 25 cents to $1.40 per mile, depending on traffic. The heavier the traffic, the more you pay. A one-way trip could cost you $7.

"Our lanes are accessible to everyone, regardless of income. We're the first in the country to offer an equity plan, which is a $25 toll credit to qualifying L.A. County residents," Wiggins said.

If you get caught driving in the ExpressLanes without a FastTrak transponder, you could be fined as much as $400.

You can purchase a transponder at a discount at your local AAA office and Costco.

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