By Margaret Carrero

LOS ANGELES ( — Express toll lanes aimed at reducing traffic congestion could be slowing down drivers on the Harbor (110) Freeway, officials said Wednesday.

KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Metro officials are suggesting drivers who have avoided paying to use the toll lanes may be to blame for the slowdown.

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Preliminary data suggests traffic speeds have increased along the new 11-mile stretch of toll lanes (PDF) stretching from Adams Blvd. as far as south as Harbor Gateway Transit Center, while average speeds in non-toll lanes have slowed.

Drivers pay anywhere from $4 to as much as $15 during peak hours as fees increase with the volume of cars – and some say that cost has priced them into a much slower commute.

“I don’t think most people want to pay $5 or $10 a way going to work and $5 or $10 coming back, that’s a little too high,” one commuter said.

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Metro officials attribute much of the slowdown in traffic primarily to solo drivers no longer being allowed to use the carpool lane illegally.

But spokesman Rick Jagger downplayed talk of $15 tolls as being the norm for the majority of commuters.

“Our tolls have averaged between $4 and $6 along that stretch of the highway, which is a bargain because your saving about 20 to 30 minutes off your commute when you use ’em,” Jagger said.

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If the express lanes on both the 110 and 10 freeways prove to be successful in reducing congestion, analysts say drivers can expect hundreds of additional miles of carpool lanes coming to Southland freeways.