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Pointing to the Intercounty Connector in Maryland and the express lanes, Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said planners estimated higher usage and better returns on both projects.

“Both lanes are well below their original forecasts for number of trips and revenue, which indicates these are both still experiments,” Mr. Schwartz said. “That’s why we urged them to wait on the I-95 HOT lanes. We really need to test this out before we go further.”

Transit patterns also are shifting, Mr. Schwartz said, with people moving in droves into the District in the midst of its urban renewal and trading long road commutes for other modes of transportation.

He questions whether investment in express buses on dedicated lanes or better links with transit-oriented development could have been more effective at reducing regional congestion.

Noting that usage estimates of the 495 Express Lanes were made before the recession — during which U.S. car usage declined markedly — Mr. Poole thinks planners may have gotten into trouble in the short term.

“There is a question of how they are going to cover their debt service in the next several years,” he said.

But as long as the regional economy remains robust, he said, drivers likely will return to the roads and help make the HOT lanes successful.