12/16/2013: Innovation required to curb congestion on Highway 101, report says

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 16, 2013

Bianca Taylor, 510-740-3150 ext. 320
Jeff Hobson, 510-682-4868

Innovation required to curb congestion on Highway 101, report says

San Mateo –Move more people with less traffic?  Sounds impossible – but according to a new report released today, an innovative solution could put more people in the fast lane on Highway 101 in San Mateo County and reduce traffic in other lanes.

Innovation required: Moving more people with less traffic,released by the transportation advocacy non-profit TransForm, analyzes a new option for express lanes that will make the best use of highway lanes and simultaneously fund transportation choices to truly reduce congestion.

Express lanes, also known as “high-occupancy toll” or HOT lanes, allow solo drivers to access carpool lanes by paying a fee when the carpool lanes aren’t full.

San Mateo County badly needs a traffic fix.  In addition to crushing gridlock on Highway 101, alternatives like Caltrain are crowded, and employer shuttles that daily carry thousands of commuters to companies like Google and Genentech are caught in the same crawl as people driving alone. 

The county has proposed spending approximately $150-180 million to construct a new carpool lane on Highway 101.  However, according to the report, the conventional highway expansion approach will only result in worse traffic in the future, at high cost to taxpayers.

In contrast, the “Optimized HOT” scenario would cost just $18 million to convert an existing lane of Highway 101 into an express lane. The County could then invest toll revenues into express buses, vanpools, and other options to relieve the mounting pressure on the already-crowded freeway – and achieve results much more quickly due to the lower up-front costs.

“Our analysis shows that the “Optimized HOT” scenario would move nearly twice as many people as the current proposal, but have less traffic for everyone,” said Jeff Hobson, TransForm Deputy Director and one of the report’s authors.  “Instead of paying for pavement, San Mateo County could invest in better, faster transportation overall, sharing the benefits more widely among commuters, taxpayers, and the environment.”

“It’s an interesting idea, and it’s definitely time to try a new approach,” said Kevin Mathy, Google's Transportation Manager.  “The congestion on Highway 101 has increasingly gotten worse, and as the economy continues to improve, traffic will become a significant disadvantage for employees of businesses along the peninsula. It makes sense to have a lane that can move many more people and offers a choice to get out of congestion.”

The report recommends study of the Optimized HOT scenario, both in San Mateo County and throughout the Bay Area.  Regional agencies are planning a express lane network that will include 550 miles of express lanes throughout the Bay Area.  San Mateo County could lead the way in trailblazing a new approach to congestion management – if an antiquated state policy is changed to clear the way.

Currently, California law prohibits conversion of an existing highway lane into an express lane.  The report further recommends that state restrictions be lifted, at least to allow evaluation through a few demonstration projects.

 “We’re supposed to be the leaders in innovation, yet outdated state law is proving to be literally a roadblock for our economy and environment,” said Hobson.  “Our report outlines an innovative new idea that our county and regional agencies should at least be allowed to consider.”

It’s time to move the roadblocks out of the way.  The Bay Area needs an innovative new strategy that can leverage existing highway lanes and more transportation choices to curb traffic and allow more people to move along our transportation corridors.  Optimized HOT could be the solution we’ve been waiting for – but we won’t know until we’re allowed to give it a try.

For more information and to download the report, click here.


  • Infographic summarizing key report findings
  • TransForm spokeperson available for interview during morning/evening rush hours at overpasses on Highway 101 that illustrate the opportunity


ABOUT TransForm

TransForm works to create world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area and California. TransForm builds diverse coalitions, influences policy, and develops innovate programs to improve the lives of all people and protect the environment. www.transformca.org