Op/Ed: There’s a New Toll Road in Town

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Travelling to and from Los Angeles is something of a mix between a science and an art.  We debate the best time to get on the road to avoid the morning and afternoon commuters, how early to leave to make a flight at LAX, whether weekend traffic is steadily increasing, and perhaps the most difficult of all, how to deal with holiday travel.

Starting on December 1, the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA) will significantly impact the equation with the newly completed I-405 Improvement Project, a massive upgrade to this heavily traveled stretch of highway. OCTA forecasts shorter commutes, increased safety, and overall lessened congestion.

What’s changing?

OCTA added one regular lane in each direction of the 405 between Costa Mesa and the border of Los Angeles County. A second lane added in each direction will combine with the existing carpool lanes to form the fourteen miles of the 405 Express Lanes. Entries and exits along the way provide drivers the option to pay for solely the portions they drive. Additional work reconstructed 18 bridges, improved local streets and freeway on and off ramps, and added electronic message boards for toll pricing.

How will it work?

The 405 Express Lanes will allow shorter travel times for a toll. Tolls will vary not only by the number of travelers and distance traveled, but also the hour of day, day of week, and direction of travel. For example:

  • The maximum toll for a single driver of the entire northbound stretch on a Friday commute between 3 and 5 p.m. will be $9.95.
  • Vehicles with two passengers during non-peak hours will travel for free for the first three and a half years.
  • Vehicles with three or more passengers, as well as motorcycles and vehicles with designated veterans license plates or disabled person license plates, will always travel on the 405 Express Lanes for free.

What is required?

Drivers will need a FasTrak transponder; there are no toll booths for cash payments. A single driver vehicle with a sticker transponder affixed to the windshield is ready to go, nothing more is required to use the 405 Express Lanes.

To qualify for carpool discounts on the 405 Express Lanes, drivers need a switchable hardcase FasTrak transponder. Prior to starting each trip, the driver will move the switch to indicate the number of passengers in the vehicle (1, 2 or 3+) and calculate the correct toll.

A vehicle can have both a sticker transponder and switchable transponder mounted to the same windshield. The switchable transponder automatically takes priority and registers the appropriate toll for travel on the 405 Express Lanes based on the number of passengers set by the driver.

For more information including how to obtain a sticker or switchable hardcase transponder, go to 405expresslanes.com or thetollroads.com.

Robyn Grant is a member of the Newport Beach City Council. First elected in 2022, she represents the 4th District. She can be reached at [email protected] or @robynbgrant


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