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Although they havenít set an official opening date just yet, the 495 Express Lanes are slated to open sometime this fall, company officials say.

The opening date will be announced about three weeks in advance. In the meantime, officials with the privately run 495 Express Lanes are urging drivers to start familiarizing themselves with the new toll lanes, including the access points.

The Express Lanes will add four news lanes in the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway, from the Dulles Toll Road to the Springfield interchange. To install the lanes, the project involved replacing dozens of bridges and overpasses.

Unlike the Dulles Toll Road, all drivers using the Express Lanes will need an E-ZPass electronic toll tag.

This includes carpools with three or more passengers, who can use the lanes toll-free but must have the new E-ZPass Flex toll tag to do so. The E-ZPass Flex features a switch that places the device in carpool mode.

The Express Lanes also will introduce Virginia drivers to variable priced tolling. Beltway drivers already can get a glimpse of the new message boards, now in the testing phase, that will tell drivers how much they will have to pay to use the Express Lanes at any given time.

The signs will list the cost to travel to two popular destinations from where the driver entered, as well as the maximum toll to go to the final exit. Toll prices will vary based on demand, so as the lanes get more crowded, the prices will go up to discourage more drivers from entering.

The Express Lanes are required to maintain a minimum speed of 45 mph. Traffic will be closely monitored from the Express Lanes new operations center in Alexandria.

Average tolls are anticipated to be $3 to $6 per trip during rush hours and $1 to $2 during other times.

More information about the 495 Express Lanes is available at 495expresslanes.com.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com