|The Rapid Pass system uses instruments in the green boxes on either side of the ramp to test vehicles' emissions.|
The Rapid Pass program is operated by Opus Inspection Inc. under contract with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The testing stations set up on major roadways, often on exit ramps, measure a vehicle’s speed, acceleration, and associated exhaust emissions to determine whether the vehicle is in compliance with state emission standards. A camera captures an image of the vehicle’s license plate.
If you car passes the test, you’ll get a notice in the mail. Visit the Rapid Pass website, click the “I’m clean” button and follow the instructions to complete your inspection. The program plans to issue email notices in the future.
Since the program started in December, about 8,000 to 10,000 notices have been sent out advising drivers that their vehicle passed the Rapid Pass emissions test, said Jim Sands, president of Opus Inspection. Many of those people probably didn’t even know they had driven by an inspection station.
If you want to avoid the hassle of taking your car for an emissions inspection, look online to see if there is a Rapid Pass inspection station near your route and drive through it at last 120 days before your car registration deadline. Rapid Pass does not operate during rain, snow, or high winds.
There are about 12 to 15 Rapid Pass set-ups throughout Northern Virginia at a time, and the locations vary from week to week. The locations are published online.
For example, on Jan. 20, cruise by the ramp from Arlington Boulevard heading east to Route 7 in Seven Corners or, in Annandale, take the Braddock Road exit from the beltway heading west to get your emissions tested.
If your car doesn’t pass the Rapid Pass inspection, you won’t get a notice. In that case you’ll have to take your car to a service station for a traditional inspection. The cost is the same for both options.
Rapid Pass doesn’t replace the existing emissions program, said Sands. “It’s simply another option to give motorists a choice. There’s no bearing on the network of inspection stations.”
In fact, Sands says, Opus’ contract with DEQ stipulates that the company can’t test more than 30 percent of vehicles in its service area.
The state isn’t paying Opus anything for designing or operating the program, but the company gets to keep the revenue from the inspection fees paid by drivers who use Rapid Pass, he said. Opus has been carrying out a similar emissions testing program in Colorado for the past few years and does different kinds of emission tests in other states.
“Virginia has a very robust emissions testing system and sees the value of road sensing,” Sands said. “Tests that evaluate vehicles in use are more accurate.”