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Phil Matier: Bay Area Express Lane Network Plan Picking Up Steam

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A car travels along the express lane on northbound Interstate 680 in Fremont. (Metropolitan Transportation Commission)

A car travels along the express lane on northbound Interstate 680 in Fremont. (Metropolitan Transportation Commission)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Transportation planners are moving forward on the first phase of a major regional project to create a network of  express lanes along Bay Area highways.

Transit planners are hopeful that express lanes – carpool lanes that solo drivers could use for a fee – will help ease congestion on Bay Area freeways. Commuters are hopeful that express lanes will help ease their frustration when they look to their left and see a seemingly empty – or little used – lane on the highway.

Work has begun on a 90-mile stretch of what will become express lanes on Interstates 80, 680, 880 and the East Bay approaches to the Dumbarton and San Mateo bridges. These express lanes are expected to be operational by 2015, representing completion of the first phase of what Bay Area transportation officials say is a long-term plan to create 500 miles of express lanes.

Tolls for express lanes are collected via FasTrak transponder. Overhead sensors and cameras help to enforce payment and violators. The cost varies depending on the time of day and flow of traffic.

Beyond the construction sites, work continues on determining the specifics of the express lanes – namely, how toll will be collected and how violations will be enforced. In addition to ironing out those issues, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will also decide the hours when commuters can and cannot use express lanes, and what it might cost.

Some Bay Area drivers are already reaping the benefits of express lanes – there are 14 miles on southbound Interstate 680 and 4 miles at the Highway 237/Interstate 880 interchange employing the express lane concept.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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