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Don’t use your E-ZPass Flex in HOV mode? Give it back, or that’ll be $10 extra.

This weekend, my wife and me, and a third person — probably a friend or family member — must make a trip on the Interstate 95 E-ZPass Express Lanes.


It’s because we got an email from the folks at E-ZPass Virginia telling us it’s been a while since we’ve used our Flex transponder in HOV mode. And if we don’t use it, we lose it or must pay a $10 fee.

Here’s a portion of that email:

(Photo: VDOT)

“Since this transponder type is more expensive for us to procure, our Customer Agreement requires valid use in HOV mode at least once every six months or payment of a one-time Flex upgrade charge of $10 per Flex transponder. Alternatively, you can return your Flex transponder or exchange it for a standard transponder.”

The Flex transponder — the plastic box affixed to our car’s windshield that electronically pays the tolls to use the lanes, deducting it from our credit card account — allows us to toggle between HOV mode (free rides with three or more occupants in the car) or toll-paying mode.

The $10 charge we have the option of paying is a one-time fee, according to the email from the state. However, we’ve decided to take a part of our weekend to make the trip down I-95 — something we try to avoid on the weekends, if possible.

It’s important to note we use our transponder weekly as regular paying commuting customers on the I-95 E-ZPass Express Lanes. And while this is just one more hoop that Northern Virginia commuters must now jump through to keep the convenience of an E-ZPass Flex transponder, we think it’s worth it.

We asked the Virginia Department of Transportation about all this, and the response I received wasn’t all that different than what I received in my original email from the state.

Here’s that response from VDOT spokeswoman Shannon Nicole Marshall:

“The difference in cost between the standard and Flex E-ZPass transponders that the Commonwealth pays is rough $10. The Flex transponder has additional technology to provide HOV nomination functionality.

The E-ZPass program covers this cost difference as long as the HOV functionality of the more expensive transponder (Flex) is used at least once every six months. If the Flex functionality is not used, the account holder has one of three options:

1. Utilize the Express Lanes for an HOV trip with three or more persons with the Flex transponder in HOV mode
2. Return the Flex transponder and exchange it with a standard E-ZPass transponder
3. If the account holder wants to keep the Flex transponder, pay a one-time $10 upgrade charge and there is no further HOV use obligation

This policy was put into place in July 2015 and only applies to Flex transponders distributed after October 2014.”

All E-ZPass Virginia transponders are owned by the Commonwealth.

We’ll look for you on the Express Lanes this weekend.

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