Groundbreaking held for ExpressLanes congestion pricing project

From left, Metro Board Members Mark Ridley-Thomas, Richard Katz and Antonio Villaraigosa at today's groundbreaking for the ExpressLanes project. Photo: Office of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Officials today held a groundbreaking ceremony for the ExpressLanes project that will convert parts of the carpool lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways to toll lanes.

The idea of the test program is to sell excess space when it exists in the lanes to those currently prohibited from using the lanes — i.e. single motorists in most cases — to better improve overall traffic flows on the freeways.

Similar projects have been implemented around the U.S., including the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County. The segment on the 110 — between Adams and the Artesia Transit Center — is scheduled to open in late 2012. The segment on the 10 — between Alameda and the 605 — has a scheduled opening date of 2013.

Work is already underway on rebuilding the El Monte bus terminal, which is part of the project. Now work will soon be underway on the freeway part of the project, including the infrastructure needed to track who pays and who doesn’t. (Here’s a previous post on transponders that will be used).

Here’s the news release on today’s event from Metro:

Metro and Caltrans Officially Break Ground on ExpressLanes Project

Metro and Caltrans joined elected officials today in officially breaking ground on the ExpressLanes project that will convert existing carpool (HOV) lanes along the Harbor Freeway and the San Bernardino Freeway to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. The project is designed to ease traffic congestion by reducing travel times and squeeze more capacity out of our existing infrastructure.

“Today marks a major milestone in our efforts to better manage our regional infrastructure,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa. “Utilizing innovative and smart tools such as congestion pricing, we can ease traffic and improve mobility along these two heavily traveled corridors.”

Metro, in partnership with Caltrans, is embarking on a one-year demonstration program that will covert 11 miles of existing carpool lanes on the I-110 (Harbor Freeway Transitway) between the Artesia Transit Center/182nd Street and Adams Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles and 14 miles on the I-10 (El Monte Busway) between Union Station/Alameda Street and the I-605 to toll lanes.

“High Occupancy Toll Lanes (HOT Lanes) serving the Artesia Transit Center and along the I-110 and I-10 freeways will shorten commute times for thousands of motorist and transit riders, reduce air pollution and bring more than 2,400 construction related jobs to the County during this time of economic difficulty,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, also a Metro Board member and Chair of the board’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Congestion Pricing.

The program seeks to reduce congestion by improving travel choices in the two corridors. Solo drivers, currently not allowed to use the carpool lanes, will be allowed to use the lanes for a toll. Carpools, transit, vanpools, privately operated buses and motorcycles will travel toll free. The general purpose lanes are not tolled. Net toll revenues will be reinvested in the corridor where they are generated for transportation improvements. Tolls charged will range between 25 cents and $1.40 a mile depending on demand.

The Metro ExpressLanes program is a $368 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 will go towards actual construction costs associated with the toll lanes. The remainder of the money is being used to improve various transportation hubs along the two corridors including the Artesia Transit Center along the I-110 freeway and the construction of a new El Monte Station along the I-10 freeway. In addition, 59 new buses will be purchased to provide additional bus service along the two corridors.

“We are thankful to the U.S. Department of Transportation for their financial assistance as we pave new ground in this region through the use of tolling as a viable solution to our traffic headaches,” said Duarte City Councilman and Metro Board member John Fasana. “Today, we begin a new chapter for LA County in providing real travel choices along these corridors.”

During the construction phase of the program, workers will be installing a host of power and utility support units needed for the operation of 27 dynamic message signs (DMS) along the two freeway corridors as well as the installation of 22 toll transponder readers and approximately 145 signs to provide commuters information on the ExpressLanes and the tolls being charged to use the lanes.

In addition, along the I-10 (San Bernardino Freeway) an additional toll lane will be constructed in each direction between the I-605 and the I-710 freeways to add capacity along that heavily traveled corridor. Currently, there is only one carpool lane operating in each direction along the El Monte Busway. None of the general purpose lanes will be taken away to covert the lanes and make the improvements.

Construction crews also will widen Adams Boulevard off-ramp, add a right turn lane on Adams Boulevard, construct a pedestrian bridge, and re-stripe Figueroa Way in Los Angeles in support of the ExpressLanes project.

The ExpressLanes on the I-110 freeway are expected to be completed and opened in late 2012 followed by the completion of the ExpressLanes along the I-10 freeway set to open in early 2013.

The ExpressLanes project is being constructed 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 includes AECOM for design and ACS Inc. for tolling integration.

7 replies

  1. And if enough land was available to add a lane to each direction of interstate 10 from I-710 to I-605, why not instead widen the Metrolink rail right-of-way and double-track the San Bernardino Line between Cal State L.A. and El Monte?

    Oh wait, I forgot, Los Angeles County does not have a unified transportation planning policy that looks at all modes! Silly me.

  2. Santa Clara Valley TA will not require transponders for carpoolers.

    I don’t think that SANDAG requires them for HOV 2+ use on their I-15 project.

    Both of these projects are in the State of California. In other states such as Washington State, Cars with more than 2 passengers DO NOT need a transponder.

    So why is LA Metro not following this model?

    Why is LA Metro going to drive casual car- and vanpoolers, out-of-state tour-buses and long-distance intercity buses out of the HOV lanes and into the General Purpose lanes? This doesn’t move more people; it only creates dangerous confusion (last minute lane changes) and anger (after photo-enforced tickets are received).

    Or does LA Metro want this to fail?

  3. And thus begins the end of the once-BRT-only El Monte Busway. This is why building Rail Transit is so important; it can’t be co-opted by the asphalt-heads.

  4. As one who drives a 100% Electric Vehicle with the White Stickers, will I still be able to drive in these new lanes without paying as I do now?

  5. While I support this 100%, but there is one concern: how to properly let rental car drivers, out-of-towners and out-of-state license plate cars owners know about this.

    I’m assuming this will be like an ETC type system like the E-Z Pass used in the East Coast, but many West Coasters are not used to this idea yet. How will it be done?

    Will the toll transponders be an integration to the FasTrak system that is used in the Toll Roads of Orange County so people can get one transponder for all of LA and OC Counties or will it be another proprietary system that’s incompatible between one and another?

    How will tolls be collected for out-of-towners who wishes to use the ExpressLanes but don’t have transponders? For example, those from San Diego still have CA license plates, will cameras capture the license plate info and bill them later?

    Similar to out-of-state cars, will the system be able to integrate itself with DMV info from non-California license plate holders to bill them correctly? CAnians are not the only ones driving in our freeways, we see lots of out-of-state, and sometimes even non-US (Canada and Mexico) license plates on our freeways as well.

    How about rental cars? Will the system be able to correctly charge Mr. John Doe from Chicago, IL driving a Hertz rental car that he rented from LAX?