- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2014

As Northern Virginia commuters celebrate the opening of the new express lanes on Interstate 95, motorists should beware that the toll systems are watching, keeping a record of speeders.

While the E-ZPass system doesn’t enforce speed limits via ticketing or E-ZPass suspensions, the system does hold on to video surveillance that authorities could use in a later investigation.

The new system has set up 24/7 video surveillance to monitor whether or not motorists are obeying the high occupancy vehicle lane rules.

But those images are stored in the system and can be accessed with a warrant, according to Mike McGurk, a senior corporate relations associate with Transurban, the Australian company that built the express lanes through a private-public partnership and which operates the technology used on the lanes.

Videos are stored for five days, and still images are logged for 90 days after the driver is captured on the lanes.

But motorists on the new lanes can rest easy knowing that their E-ZPasses, the transponders used to pay the toll fees, will not be suspended for speeding.

“We will have the ability and the technology that’s out there: If that car goes by, then we will know how fast they are going. But we won’t share that information with anyone,” Mr. McGurk said. “The only time we would do that — the road is monitored 24/7 — [is] if we see someone driving the wrong way down the road, then we will notify police.”

Police presence on the new lanes will be increased to enforce the HOV rules. While motorcyclists and carpoolers will still be able to use the HOV lanes free of charge, the rules have changed for motorists with eco-friendly vehicles.

Motorists with qualifying hybrid vehicles, which are allowed on HOV lanes as a reward for using clean energy transportation, will have to pay the toll to ride the express lanes, just like other commuters. The new agreement for the express lanes excludes most hybrid cars from the pool of vehicles that can enter the lanes free of charge.

All motorists planning to use the new lanes are expected to have an E-ZPass. Those who do not will get a bill in the mail that also includes a fee for using the roadway.

The toll amount changes depending on the number of cars in the lanes. Motorists can be charged between $.20 and $.80 per mile.

“We look at density of cars in lanes. The tolls change depending on traffic; as more people go in the lane, the tolls increase, and they will decrease as more people leave the lanes,” Mr. McGurk said.

The goal of the fluctuating tolls is to ensure that traffic in the lanes continues to move at 65 mph.

Carpoolers with three or more people in the car, including the driver, can use the lanes free of charge with an E-ZPass Flex that can be switched to a free HOV mode.

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