San Mateo County will test new way to reduce traffic on Highway 101

San Mateo County officials agree! Testing innovative approaches to reduce traffic on Highway 101 is a necessity – especially since the gridlocked corridor offers passage between two massive employment hubs: Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

On May 8, the San Mateo City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) made good on their interest to study TransForm’s proposal for optimizing Highway 101. The agency’s Board of Directors voted to move forward on a traffic study to test the feasibility of an express lane on the stretch of Highway 101 from Whipple Avenue (in Redwood City) to I-380.

The study is a joint effort between C/CAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and was prompted by TransForm’s proposal in Innovation Required, our recent report on high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. This is a great step forward on the race to Optimized HOT we reported on last month.

This recent call to authorize the study led Board members to ask more questions this time around than in the previous two meetings. Some members were concerned about whether converting an existing lane to HOT would work. Others wanted to see a countywide analysis – not just limited to the section C/CAG is studying right now. Staff and several supportive members explained the importance of doing this initial study, and the C/CAG Board voted overwhelmingly to approve the study.

The traffic feasibility analysis will test two concepts:

Concept 1: C/CAG’s current plan to widen the highway and create a new carpool lane to be operated as an express lane.

Concept 2: Keep the existing highway footprint and convert the number 1 fast lane into an express lane.

Concept 2 is based on TransForm’s proposal for an Optimized HOT lane on Highway 101. This is an important first step, but it won’t be a full analysis of the complete Optimized HOT concept, as it leaves out key elements such as using HOT revenue to beef up transit and other alternatives to driving, or the real possibility of carpool requirements increasing to 3+ over the next decade. These differences will likely mean that in this first feasibility study, C/CAG’s “Concept 2” will probably not perform as well as our Optimized HOT proposal.

But we’ve been assured by agency staff that this is the first of several steps, and that future steps offer the opportunity for the Optimized HOT proposal to be studied more accurately and more fully. See the C/CAG Board packet (pages 156-157 of the PDF) for more detail.

This is great news! This will be the first agency study we know that tests the conversion of an existing highway lane into an express lane. And we’re sure it won’t be the last! Once proven a viable alternative, the Optimized HOT proposal will open up opportunities to revolutionize how we manage traffic for generations to come.

To learn more:

  • Join us on Thursday, May 22, when TransForm’s Jeff Hobson and VTA’s John Ristow discuss “What Can Be Done About Highway 101” at a forum at SPUR San Jose.
  • See our webpage on express lanes.
  • Contact Clarrissa Cabansagan.
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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.