SALT LAKE CITY — The transportation department’s protracted Express Lane fee increase is set to go into effect Saturday.
On July 14, the Utah Department of Transportation will up the maximum toll to travel in the lanes, with the price in each segment ranging from 25 cents to $2, depending on freeway congestion.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason said all toll revenues will be used to maintain the Express Lanes — as has been the case in the past — and to improve technology and enforcement efforts within the system.
Gleason said the fee increase is meant to stifle the increasing congestion in the lanes over the past few years. Federal regulation requires speed in the lanes not drop below 45 mph, but Gleason said speeds have been known to drop as low as 31 mph on some sections of the system during peak commute times.
During the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers approved a maximum toll increase of $4 to encourage more carpooling. The Utah Transportation Commission adopted a maximum increase of $2 per segment, but the body can now increase the price up to $4 without further legislative approval.
The Legislature also approved the transportation department’s use of cameras and other technology to catch and penalize Express Lane violators. UDOT says on average, violators account for 28 percent of the vehicles that travel in the system.
Gleason said the department will study the effectiveness of the increased fee before considering higher tolls in the future.
The system, which stretches 72 miles from Layton to Spanish Fork, is the longest in the United States, according to UDOT. Carpoolers, buses, motorcycles, emergency vehicles and clean-fuel vehicles are allowed to drive in the lanes for free. When space is open, solo drivers are allowed to drive in the lane for a fee.
The state is scheduled to add two new lanes in northern Davis and southern Weber counties next year, a $158 million, 10-mile extension of the system into Riverdale. The project is expected to last two years and includes the replacement or repair of seven freeway bridges along the way.
When the project is complete, the system will stretch 82 miles from Utah County to Weber County.