Metro officials turned on signs and computers on Los Angeles' first toll road at 10:02 p.m., ending the 70-year L.A. tradition of a completely "free" freeway system.
Computers and signs on the 110 (Harbor) Freeway will be energized at 10 p.m. to enable solo drivers to pay for the privilege of using a four-lane tollway in the center of the interstate, which had been widened in the late 1980s to accommodate buses and carpools.
The county's first tollway stretches 11 miles, from near Exposition Park south to the 91 (Gardena) Freeway. The federal government, under the Bush administration, put up $210 million the project after New York City rejected the grant, which would have imposed tolls on traffic in lower Manhattan.
The balance of the $290 million project was funded by Metro, partly through sales tax receipts.
The project is a one-year experiment, and Metro and Caltrans will survey traffic speeds and roadway capacity on the 110 freeway to see if variable tolls can improve speeds.
The first tolls charged under the system were $4.10 on the northbound 110 from the 91 to Adams Boulevard; and $3.40 southbound from Adams to the 91.
Metro computers will check the speeds on the tollway, and raise or lower the single-person toll amount to keep traffic moving at above 45 miles per hour.
If traffic gets very bad, the signs will bar solo drivers and say "HOV Only."
Metro Silver Line buses and carpools with at least two people—and a transponder—onboard will continue to use the center lanes with those who choose to pay.
Motorists who open ExpressLanes FasTrak accounts and obtain transponders for their cars will be charged between 25 cents and $1.40 per mile, depending on traffic. About 30,000 FasTrak transponders have been sold so far. The toll lanes are the first in Los Angeles County, which for years resisted them.
Next year, a 14-mile ExpressLane is scheduled to open on the San Bernardino (10) Freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway.
Vehicles with two or more passengers will need a transponder to be able to use the new 110 ExpressLane for free. To get one, a minimum of $40 has to be put on account via credit or debit card. Those paying by cash or check will have to pay a $25 deposit, and put a minimum of $50 on the account.
Discounts are available for low-income families. A family of three with household income of $37,060 or less would be allowed to open account with just $15.
FasTrak accounts can be opened online at metroexpresslanes.net; by calling 511 and saying, "Express Lanes;" or at Metro offices at 500 W. 190th St. in Gardena and at 3501 Santa Anita Ave. in El Monte.