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D.C. Considering Toll Lanes On 14th Street Bridge

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Toll lanes on the 14th Street Bridge? It could happen.
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Toll lanes on the 14th Street Bridge? It could happen.

The District Department of Transportation is studying the possibility of constructing electronic, EZ Pass-only toll lanes on the 14th Street Bridge and connected freeways, and has submitted its study into the Washington region’s long-range transportation plan.

Planners caution any tolls on D.C. highways are years away from realization.

“To become a project that is funded in the plan, to actually implement that, would be a couple years down the road,” said Bob Griffiths, the co-director of transportation planning at the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB).

“The first thing they have to look at is converting those facilities to HOV lanes,” said Griffiths, who said high-occupancy toll lanes could replace HOV lanes after two years.

HOV lanes are familiar to Washington region commuters. HOT lanes are a novelty. High-occupancy toll lanes made their debut on the 495 Beltway in Northern Virginia (495 Express Lanes) in late 2012. Similar lanes are under construction on I-95 in Virginia.

HOT lanes allow carpoolers with at least three occupants in the vehicle to ride free; everyone else may pay a toll in exchange for a reliably fast ride. Motorists have the option of remaining in the regular lanes instead of shifting to the EZ Pass lanes where tolls are priced dynamically: the more traffic volume, the higher the toll. The 495 Express Lanes are losing money because relatively few drivers so far are willing or can afford to pay the toll.

The TPB on Wednesday added ten projects to the list of more than 750 that are included in the region’s long-range transportation planning. All will now undergo an air quality analysis.

“The additions and changes approved to be included in the analysis include streetcar extension projects in the District of Columbia that would connect the length of the H Street Corridor from Georgetown to Northeast DC and the Southwest Waterfront to Anacostia. Virginia proposed highway widening and increased commuter rail capacity in Virginia,” the TPB said in a statement.

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