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The operators of the 495 Express Lanes are offering drivers a chance to test out the lanes for free this weekend. All day April 6 and 7, drivers who don’t have an E-ZPass toll tag can use the lanes and those who already have the device will not be charged a toll.

The 495 Express Lanes opened in mid-November and allow drivers using the Capital Beltway to bypass traffic jams by paying a toll or by carpooling.

“This free weekend is a great opportunity for area drivers to do a test run of their commute to the office or try the new exits in Merrifield at Route 29 and in Tysons at Westpark Drive and Jones Branch Drive,” said Pierce Coffee, director of marketing for Transurban, operator of the 495 Express Lanes. “If you haven’t tried the Express Lanes, now is your chance to practice using the Express Lanes so you can take advantage of a faster, more predictable trip.”

Transurban surveyed beltway commuters at the three-month mark of the lanes being opened and found that about 46 percent of drivers who have not yet tried the lanes said they were unclear where they could exit the Express Lanes, and 41 percent said they didn’t know how to enter the toll lanes.

Another factor is whether drivers have an E-ZPass, which is required to use the lanes. About 46 percent of regular beltway commuters surveyed said they don’t have a toll tag.

Most of those who have tried out the lanes had a positive experience, according to the survey. About 75 percent said they would use the lanes again, and 70 percent said they would recommend the lanes to others.

Fairfax Connector plans meetings on Silver Line bus service

Fairfax Connector conducted six public meetings and one Ask Fairfax! online chat to discuss the proposed bus service plan that will coincide with the start of service on the new Metro Silver Line in December. The plan includes the creation of 12 new routes, the restructuring of 24 existing routes and the elimination of six routes. The revised plan incorporates changes suggested by riders and the community since the original service proposal was released in January. The complete bus service plan will be discussed at each meeting, with special emphasis placed on area service changes in the general vicinity of each meeting location.

• Reston service discussion: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, April 15, Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston

• Herndon service discussion: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, Herndon Town Council Chambers, 765 Lynn St., Herndon

• Ask Fairfax! online chat: 2 p.m. Thursday, April 18

• Reston service discussion, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18, Reston Community Center Lake Anne, JoAnn Rose Gallery, 1609A Washington Plaza, Reston

• Vienna service discussion: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday, April 22, Westbriar Elementary School, 1741 Pine Valley Drive, Vienna

• McLean service discussion: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, McLean High School, 1633 Davidson Road, McLean

• Tysons service discussion: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, 7584 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church

Planning Commission endorses ‘Fairfax Forward’

The Fairfax County Planning Commission gave its endorsement to the “Fairfax Forward” program Wednesday, a new approach to considering changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan serves as the guide for land use decisions in the county.

Fairfax Forward is designed to replace the current area plan review process. It will divide comprehensive plan reviews by type and scale: those that affect the whole county, proposed changes in activity centers such Tysons and Merrifield and smaller proposals focused on the neighborhood level.

While commissioners approved the process overhaul, some still expressed reservations about it. However, they said, the only way to know if it will work is to proceed with the pilot program.

“My concern is that with this new process, we might be taking citizens out of the process entirely,” commission Chairman Peter Murphy (Springfield) said.

The plan would do away with the citizen-led area plan review committees, although it would maintain lengthy public comment periods.

The Board of Supervisors will consider the work program this month.

Express lanes offer toll-free weekend