February 3, 2012 > Express lanes debut on SR 237
Express lanes debut on SR 237
Submitted By Brandi Childress
To better meet the demands being made on already heavily congested roadways, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will implement the first of three projects under the Silicon Valley Express Lanes Program in February 2012. Carpool lanes at the State Route (SR) 237 and I-880 interchange in Milpitas will be converted to express lanes to provide a more effective use of the existing facility and a new mobility option for solo drivers.
The SR 237 Express Lanes will provide relief to all commuters passing through this highly congested interchange in northern Santa Clara County. Single-occupant vehicles will have the option to use the lane for a fee, while vehicles carrying at least two people and other eligible users continue to use the express lanes for free. Tolls for solo drivers will vary based on the level of congestion and will be adjusted to maintain a free-flowing ride in the express lanes.
In preparation for this new facility, new striping on SR 237 will replace the familiar dotted lines currently used for carpool lanes, delineating express lanes from the general purpose lanes. In late January 2012, a two-foot wide buffer zone featuring double solid white lines will be in place.
"The double solid is a buffer between the express lane and the general purpose lane," said California Highway Patrol Lieutenant Spencer Boyce. "It's a moving violation to cross the double solid white lines and can result in a ticket."
The new striping will also indicate limited express lane entry and exit points. Commuters driving southbound I-880 can enter the express lane in Milpitas, south of Dixon Landing Road, and continue westbound on SR 237 toward Mountain View, ending after the North First Street exit. Toll-paying drivers will have until Lawrence Expressway to exit the carpool lane.
In the opposite direction, eastbound SR 237 from Mountain View toward San Jose, commuters can enter the express lane between North First Street and Zanker Road and continue to northbound I-880. The express lane will end just south of Dixon Landing Road in Milpitas where toll paying drivers will have until then to exit the carpool lane.
Since the express lanes have limited entry and exit points, drivers are advised to plan ahead and determine if express lanes work for each their commute. YouTube video "SR 237 Express Lanes (December 2011)" explains how to use the new express lanes and can be found at www.youtube.com/scvta.
The new striping will affect three groups of commuters (also refer to map): 1) Carpoolers traveling on southbound I-880 to westbound SR 237 cannot exit at Zanker Road or North First Street from the express lane. Access is available through the general purpose lanes or by exiting at Great America Parkway; 2) Carpoolers entering eastbound SR 237 from Zanker Road will not be able to enter the express lane. Access is available at North First Street; 3) Carpoolers entering westbound SR 237 from Calaveras Boulevard, McCarthy Ranch Boulevard, and Zanker Road cannot access the express lane until after North First Street.
Signage has been placed to advise commuters of approaching express lanes; subsequent signs will indicate the current toll rates. These rates will vary with the time of day and congestion level in the express lane. Express lanes will operate during the same hours as carpool lanes, with the exception of an extended hour in the morning on westbound SR 237 only, from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Commute hours will remain the same on the eastbound morning commute (from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.) and the afternoon commutes in both directions (from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.).
Tolls will be collected electronically using FasTrak technology already operational on Bay Area bridges and express lanes throughout California. Revenue from these tolls remains in Santa Clara County and will be used for operation, maintenance, enforcement costs and transit improvements within the corridors.
When a car equipped with a FasTrak transponder passes under an express lane antenna, the antenna will read the transponder and automatically deduct the correct toll from the prepaid FasTrak account. Obtain a FasTrak transponder from www.bayareafastrak.org or from one of several retail locations throughout the Bay Area, including select Costco, Walgreens and Safeway stores.
You will need to register your transponder and set up a pre-aid account through www.bayareafastrak.org, or phone, 1-877-229-8655, before placing the transponder in your vehicle to enjoy the benefits of the new express lanes.
For more information, visit www.vta.org/expresslanes, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call VTA Community Outreach at (408) 321-7575.
About Express Lanes
Since 2008 the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has been implementing the Silicon Valley Express Lanes Program to provide congestion relief through more efficient use of existing roadways. The Express Lanes program is a countywide conversion of 180 miles of existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV or carpool) lanes. Currently in the last stages of construction VTA is converting existing HOV lanes on State Route (SR) 237 and I-880 direct connectors. VTA is actively developing project studies and environmental documentation for the proposed conversion of HOV lanes to express lanes on SR 85 and US 101.
For VTA bus or light rail information, please contact VTA Customer Service at (408) 321-2300, TTY only (408) 321-2330. You can also log onto www.vta.org and sign-up to receive VTA email updates. Find us on Facebook under "SCVTA", Twitter under "SantaclaraVTA" and YouTube at www.youtube.com/scvta.