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$18M Windfall Spurs Metro Study For Expanded Toll Lanes On SoCal Freeways

PASADENA ( — Metro officials say they will consider adding more express lanes to freeways across Los Angeles County after seeing improved travel speeds, increased transit ridership and new revenues.

Two years after the first toll program began, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion Thursday that calls for a study to expand the use of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes to the 405, 5 and 210 freeways in the near future.

CBS2's Amy Johnson spoke with Metro spokesperson Rick Jagger about the recent decision to expand carpool lanes to single drivers for a fee.

"We have over 300,000 transponders out there," said Jagger. "So people are using the system."

According to data cited by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, tolls roads have pushed more commuters to use public transportation, including a 27 percent increase in Silver Line ridership and the formation of 117 vanpools.

More than 259,000 transponders were issued by Metro during the pilot period, over twice as many as projected by the county, according to Ridley-Thomas.

The toll roads also brought in more than $18 million in revenues, far surpassing the county's goal of $10 million, Ridley-Thomas said. In addition, travel times for commuters on both the Harbor Freeway and the El Monte Freeway were reduced.

"Nobody likes traffic," said Ridley-Thomas. "But with these toll lanes we are seeing some positive results that benefit residents. This is one critical tool in our attempts to reduce congestion and pollution."

Los Angeles County's first ever HOT lanes opened on November 1, 2012 on the Harbor (110) Freeway between Adams Boulevard and the State Route 91. The second toll lane opened on February 23, 2013 on the El Monte (10) Freeway between Alameda St and the 605 freeway.

"Its convenient for me," said driver Renita Renae. "It saves on my commute time, but the freeway should be free. That's why its called the freeway."

Metro board member John Fasana, who also serves as a Duarte city councilman, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the jump in popularity of the toll roads could mean some drivers may still get bogged down in traffic, a possibility that Metro has already considered.

"One goal is to, at some level, limit people from entering the lanes, the second is to refund if you don't get the trip you paid for," said Fasana.

The proposed strategy to add toll lanes will be brought back to the Metro board early next year, Ridley-Thomas said.

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