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Beltway Express Lanes Get A Bumpy Start

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Skidmarks are visible on the road where drivers try to avoid paying for the new 495 HOT lanes.
Martin Di Caro
Skidmarks are visible on the road where drivers try to avoid paying for the new 495 HOT lanes.

It didn't take long for some drivers to get confused on the new 495 Express Lanes on the beltway in Virginia. Six crashes were reported from the time the new highway opened on Saturday through this morning's rush hour. Virginia State Police are hard at work trying to find the problem.

The southernmost entrance to the 495 Express Lanes run right alongside the regular lanes. The highway doesn't split, it simply expands, with the two northbound new lanes opening up on the left.

"People are swerving, you see the skid marks," says Sgt. Kerry Allander. "They've made very quick movements to get back over to those general purpose lanes. They've cut in front of other cars over there and we've had them crash into moving vehicles."

Sgt. Allander says the drivers probably panicked when they realized they were about to enter the EZ Pass toll lanes without an EZ Pass transponder.

"One in particular that we saw on the camera that had committed probably close to 100 yards into the Express Lanes and literally backed up the entire distance to try to go northbound," says Allander.

Jennifer Aument is the spokeswoman for the company that is operating the new highway and collecting your tolls.  She says that if you don't have EZ Pass and enter the express lanes by mistake, just keep going, because you can fix the mistake at home.

"Go onto 495ExpressLanes.com, hit our customer care button and we'll work with you," says Aument. "It's very important that drivers stay safe if they do make a mistake with this major traffic shift.

You can pay the toll online without a penalty and sign up for EZ Pass.

Virginia Department of Transportation officials say they will continue to implement improvements that will give drivers more warning as to wear the Express Lanes begin.

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