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Los Angeles Prepares City's First Toll Road

Solo drivers can pay for the use of a four-lane tollway on the Harbor Freeway.

Metro officials will turn on signs and computers at Los Angeles' first toll road tonight at 10 p.m., ending the 70-year L.A. tradition of a completely "free" freeway system.

Computers and signs on the Harbor (110) Freeway will be energized at 10 p.m. to enable solo drivers to pay for the privilege of using a four-lane tollway in the center of the interstate, which had been widened in the late 1980s to accommodate buses and carpools.

The county's first tollway stretches 11 miles, from near Exposition Park south to the Gardena (91) Freeway. The federal government, under the Bush administration, put up $210 million toward the project after New York City rejected the grant, which would have imposed tolls on traffic in lower Manhattan.

The balance of the $290 million project was funded by Metro, partly
through sales tax receipts.

The project is a one-year experiment, and Metro and Caltrans will survey
traffic speeds and roadway capacity on the 110 Freeway to see if variable tolls can improve speeds.

Average tolls are expected to run from $4 to $7, but could go as high as
$15.40. Metro computers will check the speeds on the tollway, and raise or lower the single-person toll amount to keep traffic moving at above 45 miles per hour.

If traffic gets very bad, the signs will bar solo drivers and say "HOV
Only."

Metro Silver Line buses and carpools with at least two people—and a
transponder—onboard will continue to use the center lanes with those who choose to pay.

Motorists who open ExpressLanes FasTrak accounts and obtain transponders for their cars will be charged between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile, depending on traffic. About 30,000 FasTrak transponders have been sold so far. The toll lanes are the first in Los Angeles County, which for years resisted them.

Next year, a 14-mile ExpressLane is scheduled to open on the San
Bernardino (10) Freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway.

Vehicles with two or more passengers will need a transponder to be able
to use the new 110 ExpressLane for free. To get one, a minimum of $40 has to be put on account via credit or debit card. Those paying by cash or check will have to pay a $25 deposit, and put a minimum of $50 on the account.

Discounts are available for low-income families. A family of three with
household income of $37,060 or less would be allowed to open account with just $15.

FasTrak accounts can be opened online at  www.metroexpresslanes.net; by calling 511 and saying, "Express Lanes;" or at Metro offices at 500 W. 190th St. in Gardena and at 3501 Santa Anita Ave. in El Monte.

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