By David Schultz
The new High Occupancy Toll lanes, or HOT lanes, on the Beltway in Northern Virginia are so high tech, a 30,000 square foot operations center is being built to support them.
Some people are calling them "Lexus lanes." But Fairfax County Supervisor Sharon Bulova says that's not a fair characterization. She says the HOT lanes, which open in late 2012, will give drivers stuck in traffic a choice:
"The option to pay a toll on those occasions when life or work can't wait for traffic," she says.
And the drivers won't have to wait at a toll booth either; the beltway HOT lanes won't have any.
Tim Steinhilber, with the private company operating these lanes, says all tolls will be collected through electronic E-Z Pass devices. And, he says, that's not all.
"The toll prices will adjust, to control the number of vehicles entering the lanes to keep the traffic free-flowing," he says.
But all this new technology will require drivers to make some adjustments. They'll have to buy new E-Z Passes that allow them to indicate whether they have two or more passengers with them and avoid the toll. Planners are still trying to work out how to enforce this low-tech honor system.