Reinstatement of express lanes tolling
After Bay Area counties and the State of California issued Shelter in Place orders during the COVID-19 public health crisis, all Bay Area regional express lane operators reached consensus to suspend revenue operations beginning March 20, 2020.
On Monday, June 1, 2020, prompted by key corridors experiencing increased levels of weekday traffic, Alameda CTC, along with other Bay Area Express Lane operators, resumed express lanes tolling in Alameda County along Interstate 580 (I-580) and southbound on Interstate 680 (I-680) over the Sunol Grade. Express lane tolling also resumed throughout other Bay Area counties.
A change in toll policies on I-580 and I-680
Express lanes have been implemented throughout the Bay Area, either as conversions of existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or by creation of new lanes, to:
- Provide travel time savings and travel reliability to express lane users
- Expand the regional freeway network for HOVs and buses
- Optimize corridor capacity by allowing single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) to choose to pay a toll and travel in the express lanes
As the administering agency of the I-580 and I-680 express lanes, Alameda CTC and the Sunol Joint Powers Authority (JPA) are authorized by the California Streets and Highway Code to adopt fee structures to manage traffic in these lanes. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) retains its authority to set freeway operations policy, but Alameda CTC and the JPA have the authority to establish toll policies.
Toll policies provide the guidelines for operations. Consensus among Alameda CTC, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans and other express lane operators is to pursue toll policy consistency for both existing and new express lanes facilities. Areas addressed in the new toll policies include:
- Access Control: continuous access
- Hours of Operation: 5 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday through Friday
- Occupancy Requirement (for toll-free travel): 2 or more persons (HOV 2+)
- Pricing Strategy: dynamic pricing based on real-time congestion in the corridor updated as frequently as every 3 minutes.
- Toll Rates:
- Minimum: $0.50 (operational minimum unless the Express Lanes are opened for use to all motorists in conjunction with incident management
- Maximum: no policy maximum. Alameda CTC’s executive director is authorized to establish operational maximum toll rates and adjust as needed to optimize corridor throughput, with incremental increases no greater than $5, and report back to the Authority when toll rates are revised within the approved parameters.
- Toll-Free Users: carpools, motorcycles, and transit vehicles may travel toll-free in the express lanes.
- Clean Air Vehicle Discount: eligible single-occupant clean air vehicles may receive a 50% toll discount in express lanes.
- User requirements:
- Every motorist traveling in the I-680 Sunol Express Lanes shall have a properly mounted toll tag (FasTrak® or FasTrak Flex) or a properly-mounted license plate associated with a valid FasTrak Account having a balance sufficient to pay the toll.
- To be eligible for HOV toll discounts, HOV customers must have a properly mounted FasTrak Flex toll tag set to either “2” or “3+” in accordance with the actual occupancy of the vehicle.
- To be eligible for toll-free travel, motorcycles and transit vehicles must be equipped with a properly mounted FasTrak Flex toll tag set to the “3+” position.
- To be eligible for toll discounts, SOV vehicles displaying a valid DMV-issued CAV decal for HOV lane usage must carry a FasTrak Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) toll tag set to match the number of people in the vehicle.
- All vehicles traveling in the express lanes without toll tags are subject to being charged the Single-Occupant Vehicle (SOV) toll and violation penalties, if applicable.
During non-tolling hours, express lanes are available for all vehicles, regardless of occupancy, to use toll-free as general-purpose lanes.
Note that as of August 10, 2020, the southbound I-680 Sunol Express Lane (between SR-84 to SR-237) will be restricted to HOV ONLY (high-occupancy vehicle; carpool) usage during the operating hours of Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. due to construction until tolling resumes early next year. For additional information on this temporary change, see the press release.
For more information an HOV lanes and express lanes, go to https://511.org/driving/.