MARTINEZ (CBS SF) – Transportation officials in Contra Costa County held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning on a $127 million project that will add 11 miles of a southbound carpool express lane from Martinez to Walnut Creek, shortening drive times along Interstate Highway 680 by 10 to 15 minutes.

When completed in 2021, the new carpool lane will connect to the existing express lane that runs from Walnut Creek to San Ramon, accommodating more than 500 additional cars per hour along Highway 680 in what is one of the Bay Area’s worst commutes.

“What we’re witnessing today is really the process of reinventing the freeway,” Caltrans District 4 Director Tony Tavares said during the event at the northbound toll plaza of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.

Officials broke ground on an express lane on Interstate 680 in Contra Costa County on October 3, 2018. (Caltrans District 4 / Twitter)

Officials broke ground on an express lane on Interstate 680 in Contra Costa County on October 3, 2018. (Caltrans District 4 / Twitter)

“We have several years of work ahead of us, but a major component in the Bay Area’s future highway system starts right here, right now,” Tavares said.

To complete the project, Caltrans has partnered with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration. Orinda Mayor Amy Worth, who also represents the MTC, was present this morning, as were Contra Costa County supervisors Karen Mitchoff and Federal Glover.

According to MTC spokesman John Goodwin, the estimated project cost of $127 million includes $55 million for converting the existing carpool lane from Martinez to Walnut Creek, $60 million for widening southbound Highway 680 through Walnut Creek, and $12 million for “system integration,” or tying the new infrastructure into the existing carpool lane from Rudgear Road to the Alameda County line.

Funding sources include $51.3 million from the Bay Area Toll Authority, $36.9 million from Contra Costa County’s Measure J sales tax, $19.4 million from Regional Measure 2 toll funds and $15.6 million from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s State Transportation Improvement Program. An additional $3.8 million is expected to by covered by other MTC funding.

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