Express Lanes

Work crews continue construction to add new lanes along Highway 101 through the Peninsula.

The San Mateo County Highway 101 Express Lanes Project is on schedule to be completed and open in late 2022, but drivers will still see overnight lanes closures in 2021, transportation officials said.

Beginning in early 2021, Caltrans construction crews will begin more work on the center median of Highway 101, as well as some sound wall removals and reconstruction. Dan Lieberman, a San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrain public affairs official, said some Caltrans work would require overnight lane closures and off-ramp closures, but transportation authorities are working on plans to minimize the impact on residents and drivers. No date for specific lane closures or off-ramp closures has been set.

Caltrans construction crews are meeting all current construction targets. Crews recently completed most lane widenings from on-ramps to off-ramps and shoulder sign construction. Crews have placed 77,000 of the total 352,300 tons of asphalt needed for the project, according to the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County, or C/CAG.

Crews have finished nearly half of the construction of sound walls, with 20,650 of 47,210 square feet of sound wall work done. Construction is complete from Dore Avenue to East Poplar Avenue and from Newbridge Avenue to Dakota Avenue. Construction is underway from Third Avenue to Dore Avenue.

The Express Lanes Project is set to be completed in three parts. The first began in March of 2019 and changed existing HOV lanes between the San Mateo and Santa Clara County line and Whipple Avenue in Redwood City. The second part is currently happening and involves constructing new lanes from Whipple Avenue to Interstate 380. Lieberman expects Caltrans workers to complete the second part in late 2022. The third part of the project is installing tolling hardware and software to operate the new toll system. Lieberman expects the toll system to be completed and ready to go live by the end of 2021. Lieberman said Caltrans officials are working on issuing an encroachment permit to install the toll system, preparing equipment for installation, creating toll pricing signs and licensing with cities for equipment.

While the project is still on target for scheduled completion, construction has been periodically delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions and materials supply delay. The project has already dealt with a masonry block fabrication delay and a toll system equipment procurement delay. There have been no new cases of COVID-19 amongst the construction crews. Lieberman said slight delays and changes have affected how Caltrans construction crews operate. Still, COVID-19 hasn’t changed the 2022 timeline or exposed the workers to unnecessary risks. Construction crews have taken advantage of lighter traffic related to the pandemic, including extended lane closures and work windows. Contractors can be in the lanes from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. from Sunday night to Friday morning. Caltrans has also approved daytime lane closure to help meet project deadlines. Lieberman said the overall project remains within budget.

The project will create 44 miles (22 miles in each direction) of carpool-incentive lanes throughout the San Francisco Peninsula, which county and transportation organizations tout as critical to reducing traffic congestion. The new express lanes will be on Highway 101 in San Mateo County between the San Mateo-Santa Clara County Line and Interstate 380 in South San Francisco, according to Caltrans and SamTrans. The express lanes will allow access to solo motorists for a full toll price, while carpools of two people and clean air vehicles will be charged a reduced toll. Officials hope the project will incentivizing public transit, carpools and other shared-ride options.

The San Mateo County Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority will also host a virtual public meeting on its Highway 101 equity study Tuesday, Nov. 17. The equity study addresses transportation improvements the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes Project can make to historically underserved communities in San Mateo County. Residents and community members at the meeting can provide input on what kind of transportation pilot programs they want to see funded by the project.

The public can sign up for weekly or quarterly updates on the project by emailing with the subject line “weekly” or “quarterly.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

Correction: This story has been updated on Friday, Nov. 27, to clarify that information attributed to Caltrain officials about lane closures, project updates and toll systems came from Dan Lieberman, a Caltrain and SamTrans public affairs official. This story was also updated on Monday, Nov. 30 to clarify that officials and construction crews working on the project are with Caltrans, not Caltrain. 

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(2) comments


The article says "Caltrain" but I'm guessing it means "Caltrans".


These are not incentive lanes - they are privilege class lanes.

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