The eastbound lanes of a $55-million project to create express lanes expected to ease congestion along Interstate Highway 580 opened Friday morning, giving drivers in Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore new options of getting around.
The westbound lane of the 14-mile stretch are expected to open Monday.
"I'm very pleased that we are delivering this important project - a new choice for drivers through the heavily congested Tri-Valley corridor," Alameda County Transportation Commission Chair Rebecca Kaplan, who is also an Oakland city councilwoman, said in a statement. "These three express lanes give drivers a greater incentive to carpool."
Representing the "next generation" of express lanes, the I-580 Express Lanes will feature near continuous access, so drivers can enter and exit at almost any point instead of waiting for dedicated entry and exit zones, and require a FasTrak toll tag for all users. Tolls are based on congestion levels, and will be visible on overhead gantries throughout the corridor. Solo drivers that opt to travel in these lanes will pay up to $9 in the eastbound direction and $13 westbound.
The maximum rates apply to those using the full distance of the lanes. The lanes are otherwise divided into zones that drivers pay for based on where they entered and exited. The minimum cost is 30 cents per zone, with adjustments to that cost being made by an algorithmic pricing system that pulls data about real-time traffic levels from sensors.
"I love that," said Debi Nakahara, who frequently drives the stretch of I-580. "It’s all over LA and it makes that terrible traffic move as good as it can."
The express lanes are free for carpoolers, buses and vans.
Tess Lengyel, the transportation commission's deputy director, said the project is similar to the network of existing express lanes along Interstate 680 near the Sunol Grade.
There are two eastbound lanes, which span 11 miles between Hacienda Boulevard on the border of Dublin and Pleasanton and Greenville Road in Livermore. In both directions, there are areas where access into and out of the express lanes are limited, represented through double white lines.
The express lanes, which are an alternative to traditional toll roads, will be in operation on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.
More express lanes will be coming to other congested areas as well. Within the next two years, express lanes will also be implemented on I-680 near the busy Walnut Creek area.