BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Open for business! For the first time, evening rush hour commuters are getting a chance to drive the new express toll lanes on I-95.

As Derek Valcourt explains, they’re doing it for free—but only for this week.

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This eight mile express lane was designed with a single purpose: to alleviate traffic in what is the most congested stretches of highway in our region at rush hour.

With 177,000 cars traveling this stretch of 95 north of Baltimore through White Marsh every day, it’s no wonder rush hour traffic here can be a nightmare.

“It’s terrible. I hate to go up that way,” said Rick Walls. “Especially in the evening between 4 and 7 o’clock.”

That’s why the new express toll lanes opened to the public this weekend. On its first day Saturday, more than 30,000 drivers took advantage of eight miles of spacious lanes north and south. Now, for the first time, it’s open to weekend commuters during the busy morning and evening drive time.

“Oh, absolutely—are you kidding? Yeah, I would [use it],” said commuter Freda Ferguson.

Ferguson is among the daily commuters who expect the optional toll lanes will save her time.

“You’ve got all the trucks and all that traffic that’s going on so for little commuters like me, it makes it expeditious,” she said.

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But that convenience will cost you. Drivers with an EZ-Pass will pay $1.75 during rush hours, $1.40 at off-peak hours and just 70 cents overnight. No EZ-Pass and it will cost you a dollar more. They’ll photograph your car tags and mail a bill to your home.

For the rest of this week, the toll lanes will be free to use. That will give drivers who use this road every day a chance to test it out and decide if it’s worth it.

“It depends; $1.75 is a lot just to drive on the highway,” said commuter Mike Moore.

But MDTA officials expect even drivers who choose not to use express toll lanes will feel the benefit.

“Fewer cars in the general purpose lane,” said Bruce Gartner, MdTA executive director.

And that could help turn the usual gridlock into smooth sailing.

The free test drives on the express toll lanes end this Friday. Starting Saturday just after midnight, all drivers will have to pay the toll.

The express toll lanes are part of a $1 billion I-95 improvement project that also enhanced safety and replaced some bad bridges.

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