Highway 101 toll lanes opened Friday – but how much you’ll pay is a mystery – Times-Standard

Motorists in the San Francisco Bay Area see 12 miles of new toll lanes on Highway 101 from Mountain View to Redwood City that began Friday. But even the most seasoned commuter can be scratching their heads as their FasTrak transponder racks up confusing charges every month.

Figuring out how much you’ll pay on the final stretch of toll lanes that join the 118-mile expressway network in the Bay Area is complicated — even the people who planned the system don’t yet know the answer. Costs are guided by a dizzying mix of uncapped prices that can change every five minutes, multiple toll zones, and discounts for carpoolers and clean-air vehicles.

Here’s a guide to Friday’s opening for the perplexed:

Q: Where are these new express toll lanes?

A: The lanes run north-south between the intersection of Highway 101-237 near the Mountain View and Sunnyvale border to Whipple Avenue in Redwood City.

Q: I go to work alone. How much should I expect to pay to use the FasTrak lane?

A: There’s no clear answer here, but be prepared for high prices at peak times. For standard single occupancy vehicles, express lanes have a minimum charge typically of $0.50 just to enter a FasTrak zone. The price then rises and falls with traffic congestion – a cost structure known as “variable pricing” – with no upper limit that updates every five minutes.

Stacey Hendler-Ross, spokeswoman for the Valley Transit Authority, which operates five miles of the FasTrak route from Mountain View to Palo Alto, said the agency expects prices for solo drivers using the segment Santa Clara County average more than $2 per trip. – however, it can reach $10 in case of traffic armageddon.

“I’ll be honest, we don’t quite know, so that’s why we’re excited to open tomorrow,” said Matthew Click, program and policy manager at SMCEL-JPA, the regulatory authority. acronym for San Mateo County responsible for the expressway. management. “The truth is we’re really going to know [the cost] in a few weeks.”

By comparison, drivers using the 20-mile expressway on Interstate 880 northbound paid an average of more than $7 during the summer of 2021, according to data provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Early morning commuters in Fremont, Calif. try out Northern California’s first toll expressway on 680 from Sunol Grade to Milpitas Monday, September 20, 2010 for the early morning 5:00-8:00 a.m. commute. The $37 million High Occupancy Toll Lane Project, or HOT Lane Project, which includes three miles in Santa Clara County, is expected to ease traffic congestion in the area and provide motorists with a faster and more easier to Silicon Valley for a fee using the FasTrak toll system. (Laura A. Oda/staff)

Q: Who can use the express lane for free?

A: Vehicles with three or more people and motorcyclists can travel free on the expressways. Simply set your FasTrak transponder to three occupants and get ready to navigate traffic.

Q: What about clean air vehicles and carpools for two people?

A: Motorists with any qualifying clean air vehicle affixed with a yellow, blue, orange or purple sticker will receive a 50% discount. These drivers must use a FasTrak CAV toll tag transponder, specifically designed for clean air vehicles. Standard cars with two people are also eligible for half the discount using a standard FasTrak transponder set to two.

Q: Will the route save me time?

Expressways promise speeds of at least 45 miles per hour, though they don’t always deliver on that pledge. Drivers on the I-880 express toll lanes saw average speeds more than 15 miles per hour faster than other traffic lanes from July through September of last year.

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