Virginia 495 commute could become more expensive

Vehicles travel on 495. (Photo: Brianne Carter)

There are some big plans in the works that could make driving on 495 expensive: It has to do with the HOT lanes.

It's prompted an overhaul to the E-ZPass system.

VDOT Wednesday is launching the E-ZPass® Flex, a new transponder that is able to switch between toll-free and toll-paying travel on the 495 express lanes set to open at the end of the year.

The 495 express lanes is an all-electronic tolling facility,

Every vehicle in the lanes will need an E-ZPass transponder because the 495 express lanes is an all-electronic toll facility.

“When it comes to reaching important destinations in Virginia, travelers now have choices,” said VDOT Chief Deputy Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick. “Travelers can take the bus or Metro, drivers can take the 495 Express Lanes or Capital Beltway general purpose lanes, and with the flip of a switch on the E-ZPass Flex and two passengers, choose to carpool toll-free on the Capital Beltway.”

The device is free, but you have to lay down $35 for pre-paid tolls.

Virginia residents who sign up for the transponder can enter to win a free Mini Cooper.

You have to sign up by the end of August to be eligible for the Mini Cooper contest.

The new E-ZPass Flex also has a maintenance fee attached. It's fifty cents a month for the rest of this year and then it goes up to a dollar a month in January.

The Toll rates for using the express lanes are variable, depending on the time you travel and which of the 11 entry and exit points you use.

The average trip cost will be between $5 and $6.