Stephen Ellison

Caltrans Proposes Toll Lane, Other Options to Ease Highway 101 Traffic Congestion

If you could pay a toll to hop into the carpool lane on Highway 101 to make it through rush-hour traffic faster, would you?

That’s one option Caltrans is considering as a solution to the growing traffic congestion on the major Bay Area corridor.

The agency rolled out four options for a roomful of curious Peninsula residents in San Mateo. There were different opinions on those options, but everyone agreed something has to be done to manage the increasing crush of traffic.

Those options include: allowing only vehicles with three or more passengers to ride in the carpool lanes; adding lanes along sections of Highway 101; extending the carpool lanes from San Francisco International Airport down to the Santa Clara County line; and charging a toll for solo drivers who are willing to pay to use those lanes.

The toll idea prompted lots of questions.

"I’m not sure that this is going to do the trick," Foster City resident Linda Koeling said. "It will help. But I want to see what the price tag is on it, and then what is the future."

Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus had an answer.

"Once they’re in the express lane, they’re out of the general purpose lanes, so that’s less traffic for everyone else to deal with," Haus said.

Carpools, buses, motorcycles and clean-air vehicles would still be able to access those lanes for free.

People wanting to use the express lane would need a special transponder that allows them to flip a switch when they’re riding solo or have one passenger or three or more.

Caltrans will present the ideas at another meeting in Redwood City next week.

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