Funds are being sought to determine whether carpool and/or toll lanes are feasible on Highway 101 in San Mateo County.
A Highway 101 carpool study jeopardized by a lack of state funding should move forward as regional transportation officials are seeking federal dollars to fill in the gap.
Express lanes are being eyed to ease the commute on the San Mateo County stretch of the increasingly clogged highway but a drop in state gas tax revenue forced the California Transportation Commission to pull about $9.6 million that was set aside for the study back in May.
To jumpstart the planning process, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is seeking to pull federal dollars away from area transportation projects that are languishing to focus on solving one of the region’s most important traffic corridors.
The commission voted to redirect about $8.9 million in federal transportation funds to study whether express lanes will be feasible from Whipple Road to the San Francisco border.
It’s about the same dollar amount C/CAG asked the state Transportation Commission for but was denied because of severely low gas tax revenue.
The California Department of Transportation must approve the MTC request to pool the money from other projects to continue the Highway 101 carpool lane study.
Environmental studies are already underway by C/CAG to study whether carpool lanes and a possible toll lane/express lane will work to ease congestion on Highway 101.
An express lane is essentially a carpool lane that single drivers can pay for to access.
Express lanes make sense for the corridor because of the high number of express buses that already travel on Highway 101, the bad traffic that currently exists and the high number of motorists who have the ability to pay to access the lanes, said Randy Rentschler, MTC’s director of legislation and public affairs.
“The corridor has the prerequisites to make it work,” Rentschler said Friday.
MTC actually supports the concept of express lanes throughout the entire Bay Area, he said.
But Highway 101, he said, “is a significant priority for everybody.”
C/CAG has partnered with the San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrans to conduct an assessment of the corridor, which is in the beginning stages of environmental review, said the agency’s Executive Director Sandy Wong.
Those studies will not be completed for another two years or more though, she said.
Although a high number of tech buses drop off employees at corporate campuses up and down the Peninsula, they get stuck in traffic traveling north of Whipple Avenue since there are no carpool lanes on Highway 101 in San Mateo County.
Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, has made improving traffic on Highway 101 one of his top priorities.
Mullin introduced legislation last year to develop a strategy to tame traffic as the rebounding economy has led to slower commutes.
Mullin’s Assembly Bill 378 would make congestion relief on Highway 101 a priority, however, the bill did not pass out of committee.
“It’s critical that we examine all the possible alternatives to addressing the existing congestion and express lanes are one of those options. I have met with a number of stakeholders since introducing AB 378 in 2015 to discuss strategies and options that could address the issue. Hopefully, as the study on express lanes proceeds, there will be additional information and options that will come to light. I am ready to work with community groups, business leaders, transportation planners and local governments to craft legislation that may be required to assist in the process,” Mullin wrote in an email.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102