|The express lanes run through Annandale.|
During the first six weeks after the express lanes opened in November, use of those lanes was “a little less than anticipated,” resulting in $11.3 million less in toll revenues than projected, said Transurban spokesperson Pierce Coffee.
“We absolutely expected a ramp-up period,” she said. “It will probably be 10 or 25 years before we expect to make a profit.” The company has agreed to operate the express lanes for 75 years in return for retaining the toll revenue.
Revenue from tolls will go first to cover the company’s costs for operating and maintaining the express lanes, and second, to repay its $1.1 billion of debt to fund the construction costs, Coffee said. After that, additional revenue would be returned to shareholders, and if toll revenue exceeds certain levels, Transurban will share a portion with the commonwealth of Virginia to fund additional transportation projects.
The $2.8 billion project was designed to relieve beltway congestion by offering drivers the opportunity to use less crowded lanes if they either pay a toll or have at least three people in their car. To ensure the express lanes run smoothly, the tolls rise when the beltway slows down. To use the express lanes, drivers need an E-ZPass in their vehicle to record the trip and toll amount.
Among the survey respondents who use the beltway frequently and don’t drive on the express lanes, 41 percent said it’s because they are unclear about how to get on, and 46 percent said they are unclear about how to get off the express lanes. For guidance on all the entry/exit points, there are videos online.
According to the survey, 82 percent of drivers who have used the express lanes estimated a real time savings on their trip.When asked to check off all the reasons they have used the express lanes, here is how they responded:
- 71 percent said they needed to reach a destination on time.
- 45 percent said the regular beltway lanes were congested.
- 22 percent said they were interested in a reliable trip
- 16 percent said they wanted to get on or off the express lanes at one of the new entry/exit points in Tysons or Merrifield.
Seventy percent of express lane users said they are likely to use them again, and nearly 70 percent would recommend them to friends, family, and colleagues.