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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Solo commuters eager to ride the Express Lanes on I-15 will soon be able to pay per ride. UDOT will start to install the electronic payment system next week.
Carpoolers, buses, selected C-plate vehicles and motorcycles will still use the I-15 Express Lanes free of charge. The pay-per-ride system is for solo drivers who want to hop in the HOV lanes and only pay when they use it.
Right now 1,600 single riders pay $50 a month to ride in the Express Lanes. In August, that decal plan ends, and you can choose to pay electronically only when you use that lane.
UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo says this is one more way motorists can use the interstate more efficiently for themselves.
"By us going electronically," he says, "it will open that lane up for people like you and I who sometimes don't have anybody to carpool with, but need to have access to that carpool lane to go faster to a particular destination."
Sensors for the electronic system will be installed in the Express Lanes from Lehi Main Street to 2300 North in Salt Lake, and from State Street in Farmington to the south Layton interchange. When I-15 reconstruction in Utah County is complete, the system will extend to U.S. 6 in Spanish Fork.
Here's how the system works: UDOT will sell you a transponder, about the size of a credit card, that you mount on your dashboard. As you travel down the express lanes, the sensors in the road pick up the transponder and relay the distance that you traveled to a data center. UDOT will electronically charge your checking account or credit card for the amount you owe.
"We'll only get charged for as long as we need it, for as many times as we need it," says Carrillo. "When we don't need it, we can just normally ride on the normal lanes."
The specific cost depends on the congestion in each zone, and how many zones you drive through. There's a maximum charge of $1 per zone, and four zones.
"You will be charged more when the freeway is more congested during the peak times, and you'll be charged a lot less when it's not congested, obviously," says Carrillo.
UDOT is still working out the one-time cost for the transponder. People currently paying for decals may get it free, and there may also be a promotional deal for the earliest users.
Expect lanes closures off peak times in the months ahead for installation of the sensors.