Expect to pay more on toll lanes in 2014

Toll lanes have proved too popular with commuters and so price hikes are hoped to thin the traffic
December 31, 2013 4:08:39 PM PST
If you use the METRO High Occupancy Toll lanes, expect to pay more. METRO is increasing tolls for individual drivers during peak times.

The new increase will go into effect for only a 30 minute window, from 6am to 6:30am. METRO says the toll hike is not about making money, but about keeping traffic moving.

Just ask any Houston driver -- the morning and evening commute can be brutal, even in the high occupancy or HOV/HOT lanes. Vehicles with three or more passengers get a free trip down the express way. Everyone else pays a toll. The HOT lanes have become so popular it's now crowded the system.

"We've exceed the capacity, so the lanes have really been maxed out," METRO CEO Tom Lambert said.

So now Lambert says HOT lane drivers will have to pay up even more than they do now during new peak hours of 6:00-6:30am.

"This is about maximizing the existing infrastructure that the public has invested in and get as much carrying capacity as we can," Lambert explained.

HOT lane tolls on I-45 south and US-59 south would increase by 2 bucks to $6.50. On US-290 and I-45 north, tolls would also increase by 2 bucks to $7. US-59 north will see the greatest increase at $2.25.

Lambert said, "We are not making money on the HOT lanes. We pay money to a contractor to operate them."

some drivers aren't convinced of that and say the increased toll rate won't lessen traffic, but create more.

Lambert also said this most likely won't be the last increase we will see for the HOT lanes.

The new toll rates go into effect on January 6. Another change is that HOT lane drivers won't be allowed in the express lanes after 6:30am. That restriction used to be 7am.

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