Police to Drivers: Don’t Back Up on HOT Lanes
If you’re driving the Capital Beltway from Springfield to Tysons Corner tomorrow, your commute is going to look much different.
The 495 Express Lanes — those High Occupancy Toll or HOT lanes we’ve been hearing about for so long — opened for the first time on Saturday to traffic. That means those with three or more inside a vehicle can ride the lanes for free with an E-Z Pass Flex transponder. Single drivers must pay a toll to use the lanes, and can use a traditional E-Z Pass or E-Z Pass Flex.
Virginia State Police report four accidents – two of them with non-life threatening injuries to those involved – since the lanes opened this weekend at the northbound entrance to the lanes just after the Springfield mixing bowl.
In a press release Sunday night, police urged commuters to pay attention to lane configurations, and if you get into the wrong lane, don’t back up.
Plan Ahead. As northbound motorists come upon the change in traffic patterns at the Express Lanes entrance, they are swerving or making sudden lane changes to avoid the toll lanes. This has been the cause of all four crashes, where drivers swerved, lost control and crashed into other vehicles and/or the cement barriers/Jersey walls.
Don’t stop or back up. Drivers are also stopping or backing up in an attempt to avoid the Express Lanes and to get into the general purpose lanes. Drivers should never stop or back up on an interstate. If you accidentally find yourself in the Express Lanes or are unable to safely merge into the general purpose lanes, then just keep going in the Express Lanes. Take the first exit and then go to www.495ExpressLanes.com and pay the toll online. Backing up or stopping puts you at risk of causing a crash and being seriously injured or killed.
Virginia State Police have spent the weekend working with VDOT and Transurban to assess and improve signage to warn northbound I-495 motorists of the upcoming lane changes. Additional markings are also being planned for the immediate area to aid motorists.
Two-axle vehicles only. Motorists are also advised that only two-axle vehicles are permitted in the I-495 Express Lanes. Tractor-trailers, passenger vehicles pulling trailers and other vehicles with more than two-axles are prohibited from using the new toll lanes.
The new toll lanes are patrolled by Virginia State Police 24-hours a day. They warn drivers who enter lanes without an E-Z Pass will be fined.
Drivers with two or more occupants in the car who have not switched their E-Z Pass Flex from single driver mode to HOV mode will also be charged the posted toll to use the lanes.