California's Newest Express Lanes Opened Monday in Riverside County
The 91 Express Lanes, the nation's oldest High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, also considered a toll road as they were built in the median of State Route (SR)-91 in Orange County by the California Private Transportation Company with no public funds, opening in 1995, are now the newest as well, thanks to the opening of an 8-mile stretch in Riverside County.
A major difference from the one-year-old I-580 Express Lanes in the Bay Area regard those in carpools. As the above video shows, three-person or more carpoolers need to drive in the designated lane to get the discount. Yes, a half-price toll is applied in the eastbound direction from 4-6 p.m. while they drive free at other times.
In the Bay Area, where express lanes are still considered somewhat new, two people compose a carpool, and travel is always free, though on the I-580 lanes, a newer type of Fastrak transponder is needed otherwise the licence plate is photographed, and a toll is charged. The 91 Express Lanes don't allow for license plate tolling.
So what do you get for $1.4 billion? A widened freeway plus many other capacity-increasing improvements, according to the project website:
[T]he [Riverside County Transportation Commission] 91 Corridor Improvement Project added regular lanes, tolled express lanes, auxiliary lanes and direct express lane connectors from the northbound I-15 to the westbound SR-91 and from the eastbound SR-91 to the southbound I-15. Improvements to interchanges, ramps and surface streets were also made along the 91 corridor.
"With nearly 300,000 people who travel the stretch each day, it's not going to make traffic disappear, but the hope is that it's alleviated," reports Christina Salvo for ABC7 Eyewitness News.