Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study

Among the hottest topics in Bay Area transportation is the future of the region's freeways. What benefits do we expect freeways to deliver in 2035 or beyond? What tradeoffs might we consider?  

Karl Nielsen

The Bay Area’s freeways are too congested — people and goods are stuck in traffic — creating problems for individuals, for communities, for the environment and the economy.

Launched in early 2022, the Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study is analyzing the feasibility, costs, benefits and public support for tolling certain Bay Area freeways as a strategy for delivering reliably high-speed travel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by passenger vehicles. The study is expected to conclude by summer 2024 with findings and recommendations.

Regardless of the study findings, MTC does not have authority to implement all-lane tolling on any Bay Area freeway. Establishment of such a policy would require changes to state law — legislation passed by the state Assembly and Senate and signed by the governor — as well as approvals by various federal agencies. 

Webinar: The Future of Freeways (Nov. 2022)

Step into the driver’s seat of policymakers and help MTC reimagine Bay Area freeways for the 21st century.

Watch the Future of Freeways webinar.
Traffic congestion on Interstate 880
Webinar: Faster Freeways (Nov. 2023)

Learn how Bay Area freeway travel, transit and safety could be improved in 2035.

Watch the Faster Freeways webinar.

Areas of Focus

MTC invests in various programs and projects that help provide alternatives to driving on freeways. However, many people in the Bay Area need to drive — often alone — for a variety of reasons. The Next Generation Freeways Study is examining freeway corridors that are (or would be) served well by public transit, and seeks to determine if pricing would:

  • Encourage drivers to travel during off-peak hours
  • Encourage drivers to consolidate their trips and make their own driving routes more efficient
  • Encourage drivers to choose alternate destinations, if possible
  • Encourage drivers to take public transit or carpool instead of driving alone

The study also will seek answers to questions like:

  • Who is using the freeway network now? And why are they driving alone?
  • What are our shared goals for a next generation freeway network?
  • Can new tolls be implemented in a way that is equitable for all people in the Bay Area?
  • How could toll revenues be used to advance equitable outcomes?
  • How do we make sure that new fees will not harm people with low incomes?
  • How could transit improvements be implemented before tolls begin?
  • Due to the jobs-housing imbalance, many people live far from where they work. Will freeway pricing burden them?
  • What is the impact on local streets that are parallel to freeways?

Three Major Study Components

  1. Community engagement with the diverse communities of the Bay Area, as well as stakeholder engagement with government and non-governmental organizations
  2. Technical analysis using MTC’s travel model to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed pathways and their impacts
  3. Exploration of operational deployment, including the potential costs of implementing tolling

What are “Pathways?"

Pathways are defined as packages of pricing and complementary strategies that could help transform the Bay Area’s freeways. Pricing strategies cannot be one-size-fits-all and must work together with other policies and investments.

Complementary strategies could include:

  • Exemptions and discounts
  • Credits and rebates
  • Transit improvements
  • Local street and road improvements
  • Walking and biking improvements
  • Other mobility programs

Staff Contact

Anup Tapase, Next Generation Freeways Study Project Manager
Email: atapase@bayareametro.gov

Related Materials

September 2023 Staff Report to the Policy Advisory Council

June 2023 Staff Report to Joint MTC Planning Committee with the ABAG Administrative Committee

March 2023 Staff Report to Policy Advisory Council

October 2022 Staff Report to the Policy Advisory Council

May 2022 Staff Report to the Equity & Access Subcommittee

April 2022 Staff Report to the Policy Advisory Council

February 2022 Staff Report to Joint MTC Planning Committee with the ABAG Administrative Committee

Study Timeline

Phase 1 & 2: Defining the Problem and Goals and Pathways Development

Winter 2022
  • Finalize membership of the Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study Advisory Group
Spring 2022
  • Develop equity framework for the study
  • Understand existing and forecasted conditions
  • Define preliminary goals for Next Generation Freeways
Summer 2022
  • Engage with communities and stakeholders to understand needs and concerns with road pricing
  • Refine goals
Fall 2022
  • Develop pricing concepts and potential complementary strategies
Winter/Spring 2023
  • Co-create initial definitions of “pathways” to analyze in Phase 3 with the Advisory Group
  • MTC staff to present engagement findings and initial set of pathways for analysis to the Joint MTC Planning Committee and ABAG Administrative Committee

Phase 3 & 4: Refining Pathways and Planning for Next Steps

Spring/Summer 2023
  • Conduct technical analysis to forecast potential outcomes of pathways in year 2035
  • Identify benefits, burdens and unintended consequences
Summer/Fall 2023
  • Develop an understanding of potential operational deployment options
Fall 2023
  • Engage with communities and stakeholders to refine pathways
Winter 2024
  • Conduct second round of technical analysis and recommend equitable pathways toward Next Generation Freeways, potentially including a corridor best positioned for pilot implementation
Spring 2024
  • Lay out a ten-year roadmap of actions toward implementation


Advisory Bodies

The Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study is advised by a staff-level advisory group and an ad-hoc executive group that bring together diverse perspectives from non-governmental and governmental organizations.

The role of the advisory group is to:

  • Help define policy
  • Advise on equity and engagement
  • Advise on technical inputs for analysis
  • Collaboratively evaluate and develop recommendations

The role of the ad-hoc executive group is to provide strategic direction for the study and endorse staff and advisory group recommendations.

These groups bring together representatives from:

  • Low-income communities and communities of color
  • Business organizations
  • Labor unions
  • Freight
  • Agriculture
  • Non-profit
  • Youth
  • Academia
  • Local and state agencies