Capital Beltway toll lanes concessionaire offers 2-weeks toll-free for early sign-up, sets $12.50 penalties for no tag
By Peter Samuel
2012-09-04: 495 Express Lanes is offering drivers who open a new E-ZPass transponder account this month (September) two weeks of toll-free travel on the 12 mile toll expressway in the middle of the Capital Beltway when it opens. There's still no official date for the opening but they are shooting for November-December.
According to surveys, the 495 Lanes people say, about half the people driving the Beltway already have E-ZPass accounts - for use you imagine on the nearby Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Greenway on the toll bridges and tunnels of the Baltimore area, Montgomery County's Inter County Connector or toll facilities further afield.
But they want to encourage "all Beltway drivers" to get transponders, says 495 Lanes spokesman Pierce Coffee "so they can use the Express Lanes when they open later this year."
On their website they have a headline "YOU WILL NEED AN E-ZPASSŪ TO USE THE 495 EXPRESS LANES." The choice is between getting a regular E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex the 'Flex' being a reference to being flexible as between being a regular tollpayer or if you have three or more occupants in the vehicle using a switch to have the transponder declare you a carpool and eligible for a free ride.
Anyone using the the Lanes without an E-ZPass transponder will be regarded as a violator.
After having their license plate imaged by the toll system cameras and motor registry lookup of the owner name and address they will get an invoice in the mail for the toll plus an administrative fee. That fee is $12.50 per trip or $10.00 if paid online.
If unpaid after a month and a second letter is generated the penalty fee increases to $25, again with $2.50 off if paid online. And if that is neglected the transaction is sent to debt collectors and there is a $100/trip penalty fee.
Beyond that it can become a civil courts case.
Coffee says the 495 Lanes penalty fees are similar to those on other Virginia facilities. The Dulles Greenway another private operator charges a $25 administrative fee.
Motorists who use the Lanes without an E-ZPass transponder can avoid the administrative fee penalties if they go onto the 495 Lanes website to "Missed a Toll" and pay online. They have to act quickly enough to avert the mailing of the first "Unpaid Toll" invoice to avoid the $12.50 penalty.
Vehicles declaring themselves a carpool without the required three occupants are liable to be pulled over by a cop. 495 Lanes has contracted Virginia State Police to do enforcement.
The police will issue 'tickets' for the civil penalty under Virginia state law of refusal to pay a toll or falsely claiming carpool status:
- $50 for a first offense
- $250 for a second offense
- $500 for a third offense within a period of two years of the second offense
- $1,000 for a fourth and subsequent offense within a period of three years of the second offense
Under the contract between the concessionaire and the police there will be anywhere between two and six cops on the Lanes around the clock 7/24, they say.
The police will do regular patrol work plus carpool enforcement.