030718 I15 Express Lane 01

The Interstate 15 Express Lanes system in March 2018.

FARMINGTON — With a large section of the Interstate 15 Express Lanes system open to general traffic, the transportation department is urging drivers to obey the rules of the road.

Mark Parry, Utah Department of Transportation Freeway Operations engineer, said southbound Express Lanes on I-15 are open to all motorists between 600 North in Salt Lake City and Main Street in Lehi. Heading northbound, the lanes are open to all drivers between Lehi's Main Street and Bangerter Highway. The lanes will likely remain open to all drivers for the next year as the state works to complete the I-15 Southbound and the I-15 Technology Corridor projects in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

The state’s Express Lane system is made of seven segments from Spanish Fork to Layton and allows carpoolers, buses, motorcycles, emergency vehicles and clean-fuel vehicles to use a dedicated lane on the left side of I-15. Solo drivers can drive in the lane for a fee if space is available. UDOT collects those fees through an electronic payment system that charges drivers based on an algorithm that adjusts prices based on current traffic conditions — the thicker the traffic, the larger the fee.

With a need for capacity during construction, the restrictions have been lifted on the aforementioned section of I-15 — but crossing the Express Lanes' double white lines is still illegal while the restrictions have been suspended, said UDOT Travelers Information Manager Lisa Miller. 

In conjunction with the Utah Highway Patrol, UDOT conducts periodic enforcement "blitzes" of the Express Lanes system. Since restrictions were lifted due to the construction projects in June, enforcement officials have seen drivers treat the Express Lanes like general purpose lanes. 

"We've been seeing it on the road and we've been getting questions about it on social media," Miller said. "But crossing over that double white line is still illegal and it's dangerous. So we're really stressing that drivers enter and exit the (Express) lanes at the designated (dotted white line) points."

Parry said safety issues arise because many drivers are surprised when a vehicle enters the system illegally.

"Obviously, when you're driving down the road at freeway speeds, you don't want to be surprised," he said.

Miller also noted that the state has been seeing speeds in the Express Lanes far exceed those in the general purpose lanes. The variation of speed adds another element of danger, she said.

As the state increases enforcement efforts, drivers cited for an Express Lanes violation can be fined $337 and see the infraction go on their driving record.

For more information, visit www.udot.utah.gov/expresslanes.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer.

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