The newly built segment of Express Lanes stretching from US 101/CA 85 in Santa Clara County north to Whipple Ave in San Mateo County will officially open on Friday, February 11 with hours of operation from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM on weekdays. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Caltrans and San Mateo County transportation agencies held an opening celebration Thursday, February 10, at 10 a.m.
The third segment of VTA’s new Express Lanes extends from near SR 237 to the Santa Clara County border on US 101 in Palo Alto, along with the section of SR 85 between Grant Road and the US 101/SR 85 interchange in Mountain View. North of Palo Alto, drivers will experience a seamless transition as they travel through the south section of San Mateo County’s new Express Lanes to Whipple Avenue. Together, the two facilities provide approximately 12 miles of faster travel up the peninsula.
“These lanes provide yet another tool to help protect our environment and provide the mobility that our community needs,” Carolyn Gonot, VTA General Manager and CEO told an audience of federal, state, and local elected and transportation leaders.
Any driver using Express Lanes in the Bay Area is required to have a valid FasTrak account. Toll-free travel along the US 101 Express Lanes is available to vehicles with three or more passengers, motorcycles, vanpools, and buses traveling with a FasTrak Flex or FasTrak CAV toll tag set to position “3+.” Vehicles with two occupants may receive a 50% toll discount with a FasTrak Flex toll tag set in the “2” position.
“These lanes are for the benefit of everyone,” said Diane Papan, Chair of San Mateo County Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority, one member of the partnership which worked to secure state funding for the Express Lanes. “When we formed the JPA, our goal was to make sure that all San Mateo County residents benefited from the lanes, including those in historically under-served communities. The express lane revenues will allow us to test different strategies on how to best help low-income families. We are not going to return to normal; we are choosing something better, for all of us,” Papan said.
Express Lanes use dynamic pricing, where the toll increases or decreases with traffic congestion at any given time. In general, tolls are priced to allow a minimum speed of 45 mph in the Express Lane. Should the price change over the course of a trip, drivers will pay the cost listed at the time they enter the lane. Note that a trip crossing the San Mateo/Santa Clara County line will appear as two separate charges on one’s FasTrak statement.
“US 101 is a vital corridor that millions of commuters rely on each week,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “This project, which has been partially funded by Senate Bill 1 (SB1), will help reduce congestion and transit times, benefit the economy and give time back to drivers.”
Senate Bill 1, passed in 2017, is a legislative package that is investing $54 billion over a decade to fix roads, freeways, and bridges across California. Of that state funding, $220 million will go to San Mateo’s current express lanes segment, and $33 million is helping to fund VTA’s latest segment of Express Lanes.
This new transportation infrastructure represents the latest phase of VTA’s Silicon Valley Express Lanes Program, which is introducing the congestion management solution to several segments of highway corridors in Santa Clara County. The county’s existing segments of Express Lanes currently in operation run along part of I-880 and SR 237, the latter of which was completed in December 2019.
For more information on VTA’s Express Lanes, or to sign up for updates, visit the project page.
For more information about San Mateo County’s express lanes, visit: https://smcexpresslanes.org/about/