Gordon Tokumatso, Lori Bentley
LA Metro and Caltrans are embarking on a one-year pilot program that will convert 11 miles of existing carpool lanes into toll lanes, allowing drivers to pay 25 cents to $1.40 per mile to avoid mind-numbing gridlock. Officials say the plan will benefit all drivers, but some motorists say it harkens back to ill-fated toll roads that seemed to only benefit wealthier drivers. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 4, 2012.
A new carpool lane program will soon allow solo Southern California drivers to buy their way into the carpool lanes.
A one-year pilot program will convert 11 miles of existing carpool lanes on the Harbor (110) Freeway and 14 miles on the San Bernardino (10) El Monte Busway into toll lanes.
The project is being conducted by the Los Angeles County Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program, showcasing the Metro ExpressLanes. It's primarily funded by a $210 million congestion reduction grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said this program will benefit everyone.
“Our goal, really, is to try to keep those lanes going about 45 miles per hour,” said Rick Jager, Metro spokesman.
Metro, in conjunction with Caltrans, is working out the program to put even more cars in those carpool lanes with “fast-track” style tolls charged to solo drivers.
The first stretch of the 110 Freeway is expected to launch in November, with sections of the 10 and 105 following later.
It would cost 25 cents to $1.40 per mile, depending on traffic. But, some drivers think it might be too expensive for them.
“There’s times where I’m going to have the money and times that I don’t,” said driver Ana Aspericueta.
Metro said lower income families will get a break with cash credits for households earning less than $37,000 per year.
“It’s worth it because time is money,” said driver Petra Gisinger.
Some are comparing this program to other controversial programs in Southern California. In the past, toll roads in Orange County and San Diego have been chastised for rewarding wealthier drivers with the privilege of less wasted time in mind-numbing gridlock.
“Well, 25 cents to $1.40 per mile. How valuable is your time?” said Jager.