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May 20, 2009 > HOT lanes save commute time

HOT lanes save commute time

By Meredith Eidem

"This is the biggest project in the Sunnyvale, Milpitas, and the third District... It's a thing of the future" according to Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County District 3 Supervisor, who was appointed to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority in March.

The project is starting modernization of Highway 237 with HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes. Single passenger riders can pay a toll to use the carpool lane during peak hours.

"Sunnyvale to Milpitas is very congested. This saves commute time so people can get home to spend more time with their families and to get to work effectively," said Cortese. "They also reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Hot lanes have been successful on State Route 91 in Orange County and on Interstate 15 in San Diego. "These toll lanes are still in the beginning testing stages, so this is a pilot project that is a multimillion dollar investment. We get the first allocation of funds ahead of everywhere else in the country."

State legislation enacted in 2004 allows HOT lane demonstration projects to be constructed in two corridors in Santa Clara County. Work is getting underway in the SR85 and US 101 corridors. Montague is a test case.

Motorists enter and exit the lane at specific locations with an electronic reader identifying the vehicle much like FasTrak, deducting the toll from a prepaid account. The tolls vary from 75 cents to four dollars, which amounts to 12 cents to 50 cents per mile.

These are not "Lexus Lanes" that benefit the rich. Data from a study by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo shows that the majority of people in the HOT Lanes are low and middle-income motorists. Therefore they benefit all income levels.

The lanes do provide a faster route for those who travel on them, but they also increase the efficiency. The revenues will fund road rehabilitations and various street-resurfacing projects.

Cortese is also putting effort into reaching his goal of reopening the Alviso Marina, which is between Milpitas and Sunnyvale. "It is moving forward" he said.

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