U.S. 101 express lane project construction progresses | November 6, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - November 6, 2019

U.S. 101 express lane project construction progresses

by Kate Bradshaw

Construction work continues on a project that will add express lanes on U.S. Highway 101 between Interstate 380 in San Bruno and Whipple Avenue in Redwood City, as well as convert existing carpool lanes to express lanes between Whipple Avenue and the border of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties near Palo Alto.

While the project has been going on since March, according to Caltrans, work in November will be focused on the freeway shoulders in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and work on the freeway median will be happening in Menlo Park and Redwood City.

According to the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County, the $514 million project is expected to be completed in mid-2022.

Cars with three or more people, buses and other high-occupancy vehicles will be able to use the express lanes for free, while solo drivers can pay a fee to access them. The fee will fluctuate based on demand, via a term known as "congestion pricing," and revenues collected will be put toward funding for public transit and other efforts to reduce solo driving.

In developing the project, Caltrans analysis found that simply widening the highway would create more congestion, while creating a carpool-only lane would leave the lane underutilized, according to the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County. The express lane is a hybrid of sorts, as it can be used by vehicles with one or two people who are willing to pay a toll alongside free-fare, high-occupancy vehicles, which will fill up the rest of the capacity in the lane and lower congestion in the other lanes.

According to Caltrans, the construction in San Mateo County, which involves a total of 22 miles of U.S. 101, is broken into two segments, and is intended to align with simultaneous efforts in Santa Clara County to create and expand express lanes.

The first segment of the San Mateo County work, which was set to run from March through November 2019, is focused in southern San Mateo County and will convert the existing carpool lanes on U.S. 101 from the Santa Clara County line to the Whipple Avenue interchange in Redwood City into express lanes. This involves adding overhead signs and lighting, replacing barriers, and restriping the road. The express lanes in this segment could begin operating in June 2021.

The second, northern phase runs between the Whipple Avenue interchange and the I-380 interchange in San Bruno and involves building new express lanes, installing toll equipment and adding pavement in addition to the other steps required in the first project phase. The express lanes in this section could open in May 2022.

Agencies supporting the project are Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County, Valley Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. The project also receives funding support from Senate Bill 1.


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