News


VTA to add express lanes to U.S. Highway 101 through Palo Alto and Mountain View

Agency hopes to alleviate traffic congestion with project

Solo drivers who frequently travel on U.S. Highway 101 in Palo Alto and Mountain View could soon find relief from traffic congestion under a plan to transition carpool lanes into express lanes through the two cities that was recently awarded $47.5 million from the state, according to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

The project will convert existing carpool lanes to double as express lanes, which solo drivers can pay to use, from the Highway 101/state Highway 85 interchange in Mountain View to near the San Mateo County line in Palo Alto.

The VTA was notified on Aug. 16 that state funding was approved for the Mountain View and Palo Alto express lane project and two other improvement projects in Santa Clara County.

Funding for the project came from state Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which increased the gas tax to repair roads and improve public transit, as well as create state programs aimed to improve local roads, provide congestion relief and improve trade corridors, according to the VTA.

The express lane program was spurred by high growth estimates in Santa Clara County, where the population is expected to increase by 38 percent and jobs could rise to 62 percent -- equivalent to 555,000 new residents and 445,000 new jobs -- between 2010 and 2040, according to the VTA. Express lanes will presumably alleviate some traffic woes in the coming years.

The express lane project will likely begin construction in early 2019 and be completed in summer 2021, according to the VTA. Crews will install express lane signs, electronic toll readers, a video enforcement system, lighting and communication and electrical services for the tolling system. The project will also add California Highway Patrol enforcement areas, restripe existing lanes and reconstruct concrete barriers and metal guard railings.

Upon completion, VTA will operate, manage and maintain the new express lanes.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the amount of money awarded to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for the express lanes project.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Former CA Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2018 at 12:31 pm

This is great but they should have done it a long time ago.

The "forbidden" carpool lanes were badly underused, and responsible for many accidents, especially with the ridiculous experiment of having TWO carpool lanes near San Antonio.

Basically the logical thing to do for anyone was to "cheat" and drive solo in the carpool lane, given the weak enforcement of this concept and the fact that police should have better things to do

When two lanes are flying and the other 3 are at a congested standstill, that's an accident waiting to happen.


31 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 30, 2018 at 12:33 pm

"The project will convert existing carpool lanes to double as express lanes, which solo drivers can pay to use..."

In other words, toll roads built using taxpayer money. Paid for by everybody but reserved for the benefit of the affluent.


1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 30, 2018 at 1:29 pm

@Curmudgeon: typically, the affluent person paid more tax dollars towards building that road as well.

I'm not at all claiming that entitles them to priority use of the road; roads are a public good. But your comment implies "everyone paid for the road equally", which is not the case.

The other question is: where will the tolls collected go? Will they help further improve our highways? If thats the case, maybe those who do pay tolls do deserve priority use of the roads that they contributed a larger share of funding to build? Philosophically I think this is pretty similar to the taxation issue I spoke of above, but it seems that in this country we've largely decided priority toll lanes are acceptable while priority use from paying higher taxes is not.

I'd prefer we just used those lanes for a high capacity train or subway, which is both a far more efficient use of the space and for its users would be far more affordable than owning a car.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:02 pm

If I use the carpool lane today with my passengers, will I still be able to use them in the future without paying? Will I have to do anything other than get in the lane to use it? Will it get me to SFO or SJC any quicker than I can now? It is very unsettling to be taking people to airports for early evening flights and have to leave by lunchtime to make sure we don't miss the plane.


19 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 30, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Let me get this straight.

Government installs carpool lanes specifically to incentivize and reward conscientious drivers for carpooling. Later, government decides they will now charge *anyone* for that benefit, thereby resulting in 1) more congestion in those lanes, 2) no incentive to actually carpool, and 3) a few more toll dollars.

Pretty cynical, to say the least.


10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Will the tolls be enough to pay for the $33 million cost of this project, or is this just another taxpayer subsidy to the auto industry?


1 person likes this
Posted by Former CA Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2018 at 3:58 pm

"incentivize and reward conscientious people for carpooling"

This is the biggest joke I've ever heard. There is nothing conscientious about carpooling and it's sad you actually believe this. HOV lanes have always been a flat-on-its-face irrational, failed and dangerous experiment.
We need the far left lane for passing! This solution is ideal for relieving congestion even if you think it's "immoral". Congestion is the bigger problem. For once, I agree with the VTA. They should done this while I was still living there though.


4 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2018 at 7:18 pm

the money comes from gas taxes, vechicle registrations, and the "extra" gas tax and vehicle registration tax that was passed in 2017.

The extra lane/lanes should have been dedicated to create a mass transit line, and the High Speed Rail funds used. that would do more to relieve congestion.

But instead, all those extra taxes, making California gasoline prices the most expensive in the nation, will be used to privatize a highway lane, so that the Google/Facebook/Microsoft tech folks can have faster commutes.

Remember this, when voting in November on the repeal of the "extras gas tax/vehicle registration tax".


10 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Ahhh, the old make-the-service-so-bad-the-customer-will-pay-you-extra-just-to-get out-of-it business model historically perfected by the airlines and socialism.

Airlines - reduce seat space so passengers who can't take it must upgrade to coach plus

VTA - reduce original number of general purpose lanes until they gridlock and then up-sell express lanes

Public schools - reduce individual achievement with Liberal Progressive propaganda until many leave for private schools and still have to pay parcel taxes

Socialized medicine - force people to pay for universal healthcare so bad they will never use it and then must buy market based supplemental insurance to get real medical care.

See the pattern here? Remember, for governments it is much easier to reduce services than to improve them.


2 people like this
Posted by Waaaaa!!!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2018 at 10:55 pm

[Portion removed.] You want to sit in traffic and unwind from your family? Sit in traffic and enjoy the quiet time!! Some of us are eager to spend as much time as possible with our children in the morning before school and in the evening before bedtime that we are willing to pay a little extra to make it happen. [Portion removed.] My wife and I are homeowners in EPA with two infant children making it happen with a single income under 100k. And no, my wife does not have a cash-based housekeeping job on the side!



2 people like this
Posted by VTA theft
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 31, 2018 at 6:53 am

Isn’t this just a clever way to steal a public (federal) road, and give it to the VTA as a permanent revenue stream?

Seems like a jacked-up way to fund the light rail.

Why didn’t they put this out to bid?

I’d buy it, build the infrastructure and get it done for half the cost in half the time. It’d be hugely profitable.

Why give our public highway to a corrupt local government agency?


4 people like this
Posted by Josh
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 31, 2018 at 7:05 am

We don't actually know what the congestion is like on a highway free of construction projects. The construction compounds the congestion. This new project will add another two years to construction congestion.


2 people like this
Posted by Ryan S
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 31, 2018 at 8:44 am

I dunno how this would help. Honestly, if you want to fix congestion on the highway, hire an army of cops and spend an entire year giving out $200 tickets for failure to know how to drive. People driving 4 abreast at 55 miles an hour, rubbernecking wildly at road work, trying to drive into my trunk, stamping on the brakes for no reason every 20 seconds... to name a few. The system works great when everyone behaves predictably.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 9:12 am

I still believe that getting more commuters into buses on the freeways is the way to go. An efficient luxury bus along the lines of the Google buses stopping at various off ramp parking lots, being met by shuttles, would do a lot to take more people driving solo off the freeways. We also need to get efficient and affordable buses along the SFO/SJC corridor to get people to airports. Whenever I take someone to an airport rather than a bus station it is putting 2 trips on 101 and takes a couple of hours of my time. Dropping someone at an off ramp bus station, or picking them up there, would be so much more efficient and reduce airport drop off/pick up traffic too.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2018 at 10:14 am

@Resident - what you propose sounds an awful lot like what Caltrain already does.


2 people like this
Posted by Giraffe
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 31, 2018 at 10:16 am

Giraffe is a registered user.

More info here:
Web Link
It says that the express lanes would still be free to carpoolers. It also says the carpool lanes don't attract enough traffic. Hmmm, so why are there two carpool lanes in some areas? Why not start by getting rid of one of them?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Old Palo Alto resident, have you been on Caltrain recently at commute time? And it will only get worse. There are many businesses now that are east of 101 and 280 is just as busy.

BTW, have you tried getting to SFO on Caltrain, particularly with luggage for an international trip?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 10 minutes ago

>> Old Palo Alto resident, have you been on Caltrain recently at commute time? And it will only get worse.

Caltrain is busy-- that is good, isn't it? You would prefer another whole freeway dumping cars off?

>> There are many businesses now that are east of 101 and 280 is just as busy.

The developers should have thought of that before they spread out. Or, they did, but, figured we all would pay for the new infrastructure required. And we did, and do, through added sales tax among other things.

>> BTW, have you tried getting to SFO on Caltrain, particularly with luggage for an international trip?

Worked fine the last time I did it, but, it has been awhile. Has there been a recent change/screw-up?


Like this comment
Posted by Me2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2018 at 2:07 pm

“I'd prefer we just used those lanes for a high capacity train or subway”

But trains are Victorian.
Old tech.
We must prioritize the POV.


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