Virginia Department of Transportation officials announced Wednesday the launch of the EZ-Pass Flex transponder, a device that will allow high-occupancy vehicles to ride for free when the 495 Express Lanes open later this year.
The beltway express lanes, which will run from the Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) exit to the I-95/395/495 interchange (the “mixing bowl”) will be free for all vehicles with three or more occupants. All drivers will need an EZ-Pass transponder to use the lanes. Drivers wishing to take advantage of the HOV toll-free option will have to purchase an EZ-Pass Flex.
“Carpooling is an important priority in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said Charles Kilpatrick, VDOT’s chief deputy commissioner, encouraging all commuters who plan to use the lanes to get an EZ-Pass Flex. Drivers with a regular EZ-Pass can still use the lanes and pay a toll, but if drivers plan to use the lanes for HOV purposes, they should purchase the new Flex device.
“Very simply, a switch on the transponder goes from non-HOV toll paying mode, with a beep and a throw of the switch, to HOV mode and non-toll paying,” Kilpatrick said, demonstrating how to use the transponder at a press conference atop a new HOV ramp on Westpark Drive in Tysons Corner.
, new EZ-Pass customers will be charged 50 cents a month and EZ-Pass Flex users will be charged 50 cents a month per transponder from September to December, and $1 for each month thereafter. Existing EZ-Pass customers will not be charged the fee unless they get new ones or choose to switch to the new Flex device.
Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said these new transportation developments were a “game-changer for Fairfax County.”
“You’re going to have more transportation choices,” she said. “This happens to be, I think, a pretty bold step.”
Tim Steinhilber, general manager of the Express Lanes, said that the project had managed to stay on schedule and on budget, adding that the lanes will be easy to use and easy to enforce. The electronic tolling system will be able to identify riders who aren’t using the EZ-Pass Flex device.
“Those drivers need to know that violators will be caught,” he said.
This article originally stated that all drivers will need an EZ-Pass Flex to use the Express Lanes. It has been corrected to clarify that all drivers will need an EZ-Pass for the lanes but drivers wishing to use the toll-free HOV option in the lanes will need an EZ-Pass Flex.