WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) — Eleven miles of a new carpool lane on southbound Interstate Highway 680 between Treat Boulevard and Rudgear Road through Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County opened Monday, on budget and a year ahead of schedule, Bay Area transportation officials said.

The opening of thE new stretch closes a gap between two other previously completed carpool lane/express lane zones, resulting in a 25-mile continuous southbound carpool (or paid FasTrak toll lane) from Martinez to San Ramon, officials from the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission said.

The Treat-to-Rudgear project work began in October 2018, and was originally planned for a late 2021 opening. But an accelerated project schedule included allowing motorists to use the lane as a high-occupancy vehicle carpool lane while the MTC installs and tests the express lane tolling equipment.

The stretch from Marina Vista Avenue in Martinez to Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek is scheduled to become an express lane in early 2021, requiring use of FasTrak to use it.

“MTC’s successful partnership with CCTA has closed a significant gap in the Bay Area’s HOV lane network,” said MTC Commissioner Amy Worth, an Orinda city councilmember. “Using our existing highways to move more people with express lanes and HOV lanes is critical to future Bay Area mobility.”

The new carpool lane will be in effect from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, when only vehicles with two or more occupants (and eligible clean vehicles) can use it from Marina Vista to Rudgear.

The new HOV lane is “buffered” with double white lines from state Highway 242 in Pleasant Hill to Treat Boulevard, about 3.5 miles, and from Rudgear Road to Stone Valley Road in Alamo, about 2 miles. Crossing such double white lines is a vehicle code violation, and drivers using the new HOV lanes may need to exit that lane early to legally reach exits in those areas.

More information about the HOV/express lane project can be found at https://511.org/driving/express-lanes/g-i-680-contra-costa-southbound-managed-lane.

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