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Express lanes pose problem for police
Express lanes toll enforcement could be tough; reader wonders if VDOT can cut back shrubs that make it tough to see traffic when pulling onto Gordon Road in Spotsylvania.

Date published: 10/8/2012

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By Scott Shenk

ONE THING some have wondered about with the coming Interstate 95 express lanes is enforcement.

How will police catch those cheating the electronic toll system, which will require vehicles to have E-ZPass transponders to pay for using the HOV lanes?

Part of the plan includes using toll revenue to pay for more Virginia State Police troopers to patrol the express lanes. The new lanes in the median of I-95 will start in Garrisonville and join the current HOV lanes in Dumfries. The new lanes are scheduled to open in 2013.

If Virginia handles toll scofflaws like Maryland, a lot of revenue will be lost in the new express lanes.

The Washington Post recently reported on the Maryland Transportation Authority's failure to recoup nearly $7 million in unpaid E-ZPass tolls over the past five years.

Many local commuters can tell you that plenty of drivers skirt the HOV rules on I-95 now and get away with it. So you can expect plenty to try to do the same in the express lanes, which will be run by a private company.

It'll be tough for troopers to spot vehicles, going 65 mph and faster, that don't have transponders. Or those that have them but still aren't paying the tolls.

This whole new electronic toll system likely will have growing pains, but handling scofflaws avoiding the tolls could be one of their biggest hurdles.

Dear Scott: Overgrown homeowner shrubbery dangerously limits the sight distance for cars turning left from Smith Station Road onto Gordon Road (Spotsylvania County), additionally making it difficult for Gordon Road traffic as Smith Station cars have to pull into their travel lanes in order to see.

Does the Virginia Department of Transportation have any power to correct this situation?

--Robert Freeman, Spotsylvania

VDOT's Tina Bundy said the department will send a crew to check on the intersection to see if anything needs to be done and if they are the ones who can do it.

In situations concerning private property that causes road hazards, Bundy said VDOT tries to contact the owner and then encourages him or her to handle the situation.

Or they ask for permission to deal with the problem. In this case it would mean having a VDOT crew cut back the vegetation.

If the growth is in the right-of-way, VDOT can trim the vegetation without asking permission.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
Email: sshenk@freelancestar.com