Expressways will cost drivers tons of money – and the state will take in millions | An alternative view | Diana Diamond

“The integration of managed express lanes will reduce congestion along the U.S. 101 corridor. It will encourage carpooling and transit ridership as well as the use of technology to help manage traffic,” Toks Omishakin said. , head of Caltrans, in a video about the project. .

Our state’s traffic wizards and geniuses have played along again – this time in a big way that will affect motorists on the freeways for years to come.

Gone is the idea that our roads are for everyone, day and night. The idea that major highways should be highways — because it seems Caltrans’s mental maneuvers are to create toll roads and make us use public transportation. But will this “reduce congestion all along the US 101 corridor,” as Caltrans claims??

Ha! We will see.

Their new Caltrans express system for Highway 101 and other major roads in the state was created, officials say, to better manage traffic congestion. What were once HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes are now “express lanes” and they charge us a usage fee for most of us (except carpools of three or more people and a few other exceptions). Usage is no longer limited to commute times, but now express lanes are in effect from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays – 15 hours a day.

I certainly don’t need to point out that in addition to the money we’ll have to hand out to use our roads, plus the annual $25 FasTrak fee we have to buy to get a discount on those roads, Caltrans benefits considerably. We drivers will fill their coffers for years to come.

Caltrans officials calculate that they will reduce traffic by charging us to use our roads, in the hope that the extra cost will entice more people to use public transport.

Come on, they and we all know how inadequate public transit is in this area, so much so that people are using it less and less, for good reason.

What is this new expressway concept: a complex computer system that can quickly charge higher fees for the routes used. This has never happened here before.

The expressways here on February 11 – a gesture of love before Valentine’s Day?

I had known for a year or two that the tracks were being changed, but what Caltrans was actually doing slipped under my radar screen. They plan to build new expressways funded by user fees from you and me. This system has already cost millions – and it’s only partially completed

The way the new lane configuration will work on the 101 is to take one or two of the freeway’s left lanes on a four- or five-lane portion of the 101 and turn them into express lanes. The others will remain regular routes.

The fees will change depending on the amount of traffic. A given segment (for example, the Oregon Expressway from Palo Alto to Redwood City will constantly fluctuate. The more traffic, the higher the charge. Sometimes it can cost 50 cents to travel that stretch of highway, from other times $5 or $6.

There will be signs above announcing that the express lane(s) are ahead, but no formal entry or exit lanes to and from these lanes, as occurs elsewhere in the country. If you are driving in the left lanes of the freeway, you may realize that you are now using the express lane – the toll is applied.

I’m worried about all those out-of-town drivers suddenly bumping into our express lanes. Once they’re on it, they can unknowingly drive miles incurring higher tolls. Without a FasTrak card, drivers will be charged full fare for 101 segments. There will be no toll booths, but there will be cameras that record all driver’s license numbers. Invoices will be sent to users. Fares are advertised at the point of entry (say Oregon Expressway) and fares may vary from region to region (also displayed on screen).

The problems I see are:

• Express lane user fees are truly a regressive tax. The fees will place a heavy financial burden on the poorest people who use 101 to get to and from work. Can they afford to pay several dollars a day for this trip?
• Electric cars or plug-in hybrids will no longer be able to use the express lanes for free, nor those with deactivated badges. Three or more people in a car will not be charged for using the express lanes, but two can use them for a fee, with a 50% discount if they use their FasTrak card, which they will need to purchase.
• Express lane charges will be passed on to airport express taxi and van riders, which we will pay.
• Fines will be stiff – around $941 – for single occupancy drivers who attempt to take advantage of express lanes.
• The organizers say that this system will lead to less traffic, which I don’t quite understand. If the regular lanes become crowded, do they suggest that we will use public transport instead? I guess they are!
• If people don’t use the toll lane because of the cost, we will see a lot more traffic on the remaining regular lanes. I predict many people will be angry. And if they’re stuck in a traffic jam, road rage can erupt.

I drove north on the 101 freeway Monday at 11 a.m., and the fares were 50 cents to Marsh Road and $1 to Ralston Avenue on the express lanes. Traffic was light. Returning south a few minutes later, the load was 75 cents from Woodside Road to the Embarcadero/Oregon off ramp. Many of us use 101 not to get around, but to get from here to there, and if we’re late for an appointment, we’ll use the express lanes.

I went online and purchased my FasTrak card for $25, a 15 minute procedure. My logic: I’ll use the 101, so I better have a FasTrak card in my car

I wish we had all been consulted in one way or another on this radical change to our road network.

Nonetheless, I will try to be positive about Caltrans’ approach to playing on our roads. Maybe wizards and genies will pull out their wands and, after hearing the audience, make this system work. They’ll need a little sorcery

My thanks to the staff at Weekly for their excellent report on these new changes: “Confused by the new lane signage on US Highway 101?”

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