The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) today announced that the carpool lanes on Interstate 680 between Walnut Creek and San Ramon will convert to Express Lanes on Monday, Oct. 9. The opening of the Express Lanes will allow solo drivers in either direction to use these lanes if they choose to pay a toll that varies based on real-time traffic conditions. Access to the lanes will remain toll-free for carpools and vanpools with two or more occupants, buses, motorcycles and qualifying clean air vehicles. All vehicles using the Express Lanes on weekdays from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. will be required to have a properly-mounted FasTrak® toll tag.
Solo drivers can pay their tolls in the I-680 Contra Costa Express Lanes by using either a standard FasTrak toll tag or a FasTrak Flex toll tag set in the “1” position. Carpoolers, motorcyclists and drivers of clean air vehicles must use the FasTrak Flex toll tag to travel toll free. Carpoolers set the tag to the number of people in the car (“2” or “3+”); while motorcyclists and drivers of qualifying clean air vehicles set the tag to the “3+” position. FasTrak Flex toll tags activate beacons to alert California Highway Patrol officers that a driver has identified his or her car as a toll-free vehicle.
The 12-mile southbound I-680 Contra Costa Express Lane starts at Rudgear Road in Walnut Creek and ends at Alcosta Blvd. in San Ramon. The northbound Express Lane begins just before Alcosta Blvd. and extends 11 miles to Livorna Road in Alamo. Both lanes will operate as “open access” lanes, allowing drivers to move into or out of the Express Lanes at any time. Express Lane tolls may change every few minutes according to demand. Tolls will rise as traffic increases, and fall as traffic ebbs. This allows solo drivers to decide if the travel time savings is worth the price. Electronic signs will show one or two destinations and the current toll to travel to each. The top price indicates the toll to travel to the end of the current toll zone and the bottom price is the toll to travel to the end of the Express Lane. Only a single price will be shown if the current zone is the last of the two zones in each direction. A driver is guaranteed the price shown on the sign at the time he or she enters the Express Lane. If the toll changes while the driver is in that toll zone, the driver still pays the price posted when entering the Express Lane. Drivers who exit the Express Lane prior to the end of a zone will be charged the full toll for that zone.
The opening of the $56 million I-680 Contra Costa Express Lanes project marks the first in a series of improvements planned by MTC, Caltrans and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to help relieve congestion in the I-680 corridor. Additional Express Lanes are being planned for I-680 between Walnut Creek and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, and construction will soon start in the southbound direction.
The I-680 Contra Costa Express Lanes are the first addition to the Bay Area’s network of Express Lanes to be spearheaded by MTC. The new Express Lanes join those on Interstate 580 and southbound Interstate 680 in Alameda County and on State Route 237 in Santa Clara County. MTC and its partners ultimately plan to develop a 550-mile network of Express Lanes by 2035. The planned buildout will close gaps between existing carpool lanes to speed travel for carpools, buses and motorcycles; and to provide solo drivers new options for more reliable trips. For more information, visit expresslanes.511.org.
MTC is the transportation planning, financing, and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.