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Drivers slow to use 495 Express Lanes

Thursday - 4/11/2013, 6:22pm  ET

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Traffic backs up in the main lanes of Interstate 495 in Virginia late Thursday morning. Drivers have been slow to begin paying to use the 495 Express Lanes, which run adjacent to the main line. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

TYSONS CORNER, Va. - More people are using the 495 Express Lanes in Virginia but the increase in traffic in the lanes' first six months has been slow.

"We're excited to see more people out there," says Michael McGurk, a spokesman for Transurban, the private company that built and operates the 495 Express Lanes.

Daily trips in the toll lanes during work days averaged 26,294 through the March quarter.

"That can be a full-paying customer, that can be an HOVer. And that is an increase in what we saw in the first quarter," McGurk says.

The 495 Express Lanes opened on November 17, 2012. Cars with three or more people can ride the express lanes for free.

Daily revenue increased from $25,437 the first week in January to $36,112 for the week just before Easter.

McGurk says so far company officials are happy with the increase. But he says they need to get more people to buy an EZPass, which is the only way to pay the toll.

The maximum toll since the lanes opened was $6.35 to travel the entire length of the express lanes from Springfield to the Maryland line. The tolls go up and down depending on congestion.

Transurban could not provide figures for how many people used the lanes without EZPass, who face fines if they don't pay up.

Transurban says about 46 percent of the people who use the Capital Beltway do not have an EZPass.

This story has been modified to clarify that daily revenue has increased since January.

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