SALT LAKE CITY — Starting Saturday, the cost of driving I-15’s express lanes without at least two occupants is going up in Utah.
But if it keeps cars moving along at near freeway speeds, that extra money is worth it, one commuter says.
“When traffic is stopped, (the express pass) is worth its weight in gold,” Vineyard resident Daniel Haslam said. “If it’s going to save me 10, 15 or 20 minutes over a long commute, I do see tremendous value.”
The 27-year-old works as a client strategic architect at a Lehi tech firm and uses the express lanes regularly for commutes to work and occasionally into Salt Lake City. He said over the years, having access to the express lanes has been a major timesaver and a rise in price won’t stop him from using them.
The Utah Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it would double the maximum toll to $2 for travel on a segment in the high-occupancy vehicle lanes. UDOT hopes the hike will lower the number of vehicles using the express lanes.
“The idea behind the (increase) is that we want to make the express lanes function in the way they were meant to be,” UDOT spokesman John Gleason said.
Federal regulations require speeds in those lanes to remain above 45 mph, he said. However, speeds in Salt Lake County can dip as low as 31 mph during some peak driving periods, he added, which has become a significant congestion issue.
“We’re seeing overcrowding,” he said. “We’d like to see that (average) speed at 55 miles per hour.”
Generally, express lanes are designated for use by carpools, buses, motorcycles, emergency vehicles and C-decal (clean fuel) vehicles, according to the UDOT website. Solo drivers with an Express Pass — a windshield-mounted electronic transponder — may fill any remaining space for a fee.
State law caps the number of C decals to ensure that express lane travel speeds meet standards, according to UDOT’s website. As of July 3, the number of C decals issued is 6,635 with 11 C decals available for issuance and 1,344 applications in process.
Meanwhile, Haslam said even with the increase in the peak driving fee, using the express lanes is definitely worth the rather nominal cost.
“Time is money,” he said. “I’ll probably be very judicious in how I use it more than in the past. If traffic is not too bad, then I probably won’t (use) that lane all the way from …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News