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Express Toll Lanes

Why We Need Express Toll Lanes

New “Express Toll Lanes” (or ETLs) like the ones Virginia and Maryland have completed on sections of I-95, and elsewhere, can dramatically reduce traffic congestion and delays, and provide a reliable funding source to help support long-term transportation improvements in the I-270 corridor. Adding toll lanes to I-270 can increase rush-hour speeds by up to 87% in the northbound lanes in the afternoon; and by up to 70% in the southbound lanes in the morning rush-hour. And they provide a new funding source to redesign and reconfigure what is currently a single-use highway into a modern, efficient, multimodal facility with a combination of:

  • “General purpose lanes” like the lanes there now (which would remain free to use),
  • New “express toll lanes” (ETLS) to add new capacity and provide an ongoing revenue source to pay for a significant part of the project, and
  • High-speed bus-rapid-transit (BRT) using the new dedicated express toll lanes — to add a viable, sustainable, high-quality, and highly cost-effective transit alternative that connects the entire region.

Maryland’s roadways are among the most congested in the country, with the average motorist wasting roughly 82 hours a year stuck in traffic congestion. Our transportation network needs to move people, goods and services more safely and effectively – which is why we need both new lane capacity AND more transit options. This is not a “roads vs. transit” issue – we need both – and the only way to pay for improved transit service north of Shady Grove Metro is to use ETLs to generate the revenue and the new capacity they create to improve mobility and provide faster, more efficient travel conditions for auto and transit users alike.

Express Toll Lanes

  • Offer an alternative funding strategy for a major upgrade in this corridor, which would not be possible even during the next 30-50 years through current funding sources.
  • Offer motorists the option of paying a toll to travel on lanes that are relatively congestion free; or continuing to use the non-toll lanes, which would remain free of charge, but would also be less congested as others choose the new toll lanes.
  • Offer transit users reliable travel times using the new dedicated toll lanes.

Maryland Electronic Toll Lanes Initiative

  • Add new lanes to the state’s most severely congested major highways (and in some instances, possible combinations of new lanes, converting existing lanes and/or using reversible lanes).
  • Apply demand-management techniques to maintain relatively congestion-free travel over time.
  • Tolls would be collected electronically at highway speeds via a transponder (no tollbooths)
    • Using Maryland’s E-ZPass system, the toll is deducted automatically from a driver’s account.
  • Cost of the toll would vary to manage the capacity and maintain efficient travel speeds, based on:
    • Time of day – Morning and evening rush hours could cost more based on the need for a congestion-free trip.
    • Traffic conditions – rates could increase as traffic conditions worsen; or decrease when there is extra capacity.

Benefits of Express Toll Lanes

Express Toll Lanes provide drivers with the option of paying a fee for something they can count on: more reliable travel times when they need to get where they’re going ON TIME.

  • A new viable travel choice for everyone — an alternative to spending valuable time stuck in traffic.
  • Travel-time reliability — when predictable travel times are most vital. Those who will benefit include:
    • A parent who needs to pick up a child at daycare.
    • A delivery company that must stay on schedule throughout the day.
    • A service technician working to make more service calls in a day.
    • A taxicab or van service driver making trips to and from the airport.
    • An employee trying to get to a meeting on time.
  • Transit reliability – Access for buses to relatively free-flowing lanes, thereby enhancing the attractiveness of transit.
  • Ability to generate revenue directly from users — to help pay for construction, maintenance, and operation of the lanes.
  • Ability to provide needed highway lane capacity much sooner than traditional approaches allow — for instance, five to 10 years rather than 15- to 50-year timeframe required with traditional funding methods alone.
  • Improved traffic conditions and safety — by reducing traffic congestion and congestion-related accidents.
  • Community and environmental benefits —including the potential for reduced impacts of highway expansion and possible air quality improvements from decreased vehicle emissions on less-congested highway lanes.

Source: Maryland Department of Transportation

2015 Traffic Summary Express Toll vs. No-Build