Metro and Caltrans mark the opening of Metro ExpressLanes along 14 miles of the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway on Saturday

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Click above to see larger.

A press event is being held this morning at the new El Monte Station. Here’s the news release about the ExpressLanes, which are scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. tonight: 

Following on the heels of the successful opening late last year of 11 miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the Harbor Freeway, Metro and Caltrans officials joined federal, state and local elected leaders today in a preview ceremony to mark the opening of Los Angeles County’s second set of Metro ExpressLanes scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23.

The new ExpressLanes will stretch along 14 miles of the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway, between the I-605 freeway and Union Station/Alameda Street near downtown Los Angeles. They will expand the commuting options for motorists and build on the success of the 11 miles of Metro ExpressLanes opened in November on the I-110 Harbor Freeway between the 91 Freeway and Adams Boulevard. Carpools, vanpools and solo drivers must have a FasTrak® transponder to travel in the ExpressLanes. More than 100,000 FasTrak® ExpressLanes transponders have been issued since July 2012.

“We want to encourage everyone to get their FasTrak® transponders as soon as possible so they can enjoy all the benefits of the I-10 ExpressLanes,” said Duarte Councilmember and Metro Board Member John Fasana. “With the successful opening of the I-110 ExpressLanes, we look forward to seeing how the I-10 ExpressLanes will reduce traffic congestion in the San Gabriel Valley.”

The ExpressLanes program seeks to reduce congestion by improving travel choices along the I-10 and I-110 freeways. On the I-10 freeway, an additional ExpressLane has been constructed in each direction between the 605 and the 710 freeways to add capacity along that heavily traveled corridor. Prior to the ExpressLanes, there was only one carpool lane operating in each direction along the El Monte Busway.

The increased capacity along the I-10 freeway is part of a one-year demonstration program that has converted 11 miles of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on the I-110 (Harbor Freeway) and 14 miles on the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway (El Monte Busway) to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes that allow solo drivers to use the lanes for a toll.    

“As solo drivers become familiar with the ExpressLanes along the San Bernardino Freeway, all commuters will benefit—whether they pay a toll or not—because the ExpressLanes will redistribute traffic across all lanes of the freeway,” said LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also is a Metro Board member and chair of Metro’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Congestion Pricing.

A view of the new ExpressLanes from the 101/10 junction. Photo by Metro.

A view of the new ExpressLanes from the 101/10 junction. Photo by Metro.

With the opening of the I-10 ExpressLanes, the rules for carpools on the I-10 freeway will stay the same as they were before. Carpools are three or more people traveling during peak travel times of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, with holidays excluded. During peak travel times, carpools of just two people can travel in the I-10 San Bernardino Metro ExpressLanes for a toll. All other times, they will travel toll-free in the ExpressLanes. The FasTrak transponder has settings for the driver to designate whether there are one, two or three or more passengers (1, 2 or +) in the vehicle because of the I-10 carpool rules.

At all times on both the I-110 and I-10 freeways, the general purpose lanes are not tolled. But solo drivers will be required to pay a toll anytime they use the ExpressLanes. Net toll revenues will be reinvested in the corridor where they are generated for transportation improvements. To prevent backups in the ExpressLanes, the tolls will be adjusted from .25 cents a mile to a maximum of $1.40 a mile and will increase as the number of vehicles in the ExpressLanes increase.

“By reducing traffic and providing more transit options for commuters, ExpressLanes are cutting air pollution and greenhouse gases throughout the region,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Help us spread the word about the many benefits of Metro ExpressLanes and tell your family, friends and co-workers to purchase their FasTrak transponders today.”

“Caltrans created the nation’s first high occupancy vehicle lane more than 40 years ago on the El Monte busway, so it is very meaningful that this is now the site of the Los Angeles region’s second high occupancy toll lane,” said Caltrans District 7 Director Mike Miles. “ExpressLanes are the next logical progression in reducing congestion as the state moves from freeway building to intensive operations management.”

“The success of the Metro ExpressLanes now operating along the Harbor Freeway speaks volumes as we strive to change commuter behavior by offering real transportation choices to improve mobility,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “The opening of an additional 14-miles of ExpressLanes along the San Bernardino Freeway offers motorists a great opportunity to be a part of an innovative new project that is already easing traffic congestion, improving air quality and providing new travel options.”

Metro encourages those planning on using the new ExpressLanes along the San Bernardino Freeway to open an account and get their transponders as soon as possible. To open a FasTrak® account and receive an ExpressLanes switchable transponder:

  • Visit www.metroexpresslanes.net
  • Call 511 and say “ExpressLanes”
  • Visit walk-in centers at 500 W. 190th Street in Gardena or at the El Monte Station, 3501 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte
  • Mail an application, which is available online, to Metro ExpressLanes, PO Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247

The costs vary depending on payment methods. Drivers who open their accounts with a credit or debit card will pay $40 and the transponder deposit will be waived. The $40 will be applied to any tolls incurred in the Metro ExpressLanes. There is a $3 monthly account fee, which will go into effect with the opening of the I-10 Freeway ExpressLanes.  The monthly fee is waived after four one-way trips in the Metro ExpressLanes and/or on travel on eligible transit in the ExpressLanes corridors.

Discounts are available at participating Albertsons and Costco stores as well as at branch locations of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

In a first for an ExpressLanes project, low-income commuters can receive a $25 toll credit when setting up an Equity Plan account, and the transponder deposit will be waived. They must reside in Los Angeles County and have an annual income below $37,061 for a family of three. There is a limit of one Equity Plan account per household. 

A recent improvement to Metro ExpressLanes tolling software now enables motorcycles with a standard issued license plate to travel on the ExpressLanes toll-free without a transponder or FasTrak account. This is based upon the Department of Motor Vehicles issuing unique license plates for motorcycles, coupled with a software improvement that now allows Metro to positively identify a standard issued motorcycle plate.

The Metro ExpressLanes program is a $290 million project funded by a $210 million federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program. Nearly $120 million was invested in actual construction costs associated with the toll lanes. The remainder of the money is been used to improve various transportation hubs along the two corridors including the Harbor Gateway Transit Center along the I-110 freeway and the construction of a new El Monte Station along the I-10 freeway.

In addition, the project funded the purchase of 59 new clean fuel buses to provide additional bus service along the two corridors and 100 new vanpools. Along the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway, additional Metro Silver Line bus service is now operating along with Silver Streak bus service offered by Foothill Transit. Both Metro and Foothill Transit bus passes are honored on either line as an added customer convenience.

The ExpressLanes project was built by Atkinson Contractors, LP under contract to Metro. The contractor was competitively selected to design-build-operate-and-maintain the ExpressLanes project. The Atkinson team included AECOM for design and Xerox/ACS Inc. for tolling integration.

Categories: Transportation News

5 replies

  1. Metro needs to end the account maintenance fee for infrequent carpool users OR get rid of the transponder requirement. It is almost universally despised! The unused capacity of the toll lanes should be easier to access and move more people, not harder. That is the purpose of the project, not to generate revenue. This project is a failure if it forces current infrequent carpoolers and out-of-town carpoolers into the general purpose lanes for lake of a transponder. Can’t Metro put the burden of the so-called account maintenance costs in the toll…What about economies of scale? Won’t more transponders equal more chance users? Right now many may consider using on a whim but if you put up this barrier you have zero chance of converting these users. What does the $3 month fee do anyway? How hard is it to maintain info in a database?…Since these user are infrequent users their chances of calling customer service are minimal. This makes no sense to so many of us and the explanations put out there are clearly nonsense. Metro, end the absurd account maintenance fee for the transponder!!

  2. “More than 100,000 FasTrak® ExpressLanes transponders have been issued since July 2012.”

    If that is the case then, that’s more reason to get rid of the minimum usage requirement monthly maintenance fee for those that don’t use the freeways as often as the basis for those fees were based on recuperating the cost of operations at 75,000 users.

  3. Looking forward to seeing the data collected!
    and
    @Ken: I think you might see some changes after the 1 year is up.

  4. […] Metro and Caltrans mark the opening of Metro ExpressLanes along 14 miles of the I-10 San Bernardino …. Following on the heels of the successful opening late last year of 11 miles of Metro ExpressLanes along the Harbor Freeway, Metro and Caltrans officials joined federal, state and local elected leaders today in a preview ceremony to mark the opening of Los Angeles County’s second set of Metro ExpressLanes scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. […]