The lanes are in use now, operating as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes during peak hours. Come December, solo-occupant vehicles will be able to use the converted lanes, providing they have E-ZPass transponders. However, there are some losers.
The losers are those with "Clean Special Fuel plates," e.g., hybrids and electric vehicles, which have been using the HOV lanes by solo drivers. The Virginia Department of Transportation refers to these low or zero emission vehicles generically as "hybrid vehicles." In California, traditional hybrid vehicles, without plug-in battery charging capability, lost their special privileges over six years ago.
Come December, all "clean fuel" vehicles will need to have at least one passenger to use the I-66 HOT lanes toll-free, according to Luz Lazo, transportation reporter for The Washington Post, who has been chronicling the new lanes since at least July.
The new 10 miles of HOT lanes on I-66 are "inside-the-Capital Beltway," from Route 29 in Rosslyn to Interstate 495.
Unlike the 495 and 95 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia that operate 24-7, the I-66 HOT lanes will only function during peak hours and in the peak direction, i.e., they will operate like general purpose lanes during all other times. However, those hours have been expanded. "The new peak hours will be 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. eastbound and 3 to 7 p.m. westbound."
For commuters, adjusting to the new requirements and rules may be the biggest challenge in coming months. This will be the first rush-hour-only, peak-period toll system of its kind in the United States.
Planetizen has also been chronicling the conversion and addition of the new HOT lanes with five posts since June 2015.
Hat tip to Kenyon Karl.
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