ABC7 I-Team looks into express lane delays on Hwy 101 in San Mateo Co.

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ByDan Noyes via KGO logo
Friday, September 30, 2022
The I-team looks into Express Lane delays on Hwy 101 in San Mateo Co.
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Drivers who use 101 in San Mateo County have watched for two years while Caltrans installs new express lanes. The project is now being delayed.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Drivers who use Highway 101 in San Mateo County have watched for two years while Caltrans spends more than half a billion dollars to install new express lanes. The project is now being delayed into next year. As rush hour drive times get slower, the frustration is mounting. We respond to viewer complaints and this is one of them.

The paving on these smooth new lanes is done, so why can't we use them now?

Traffic on 101 in San Mateo County is returning to pre-pandemic levels and construction of new Express Lanes isn't helping. ABC7 Morning's Jobina Fortson said on Thursday, "Look at some slow traffic here. This is due to the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes Project. We're looking at speeds averaging around 12 and 24 miles per hour."

The project to reduce congestion is setting up toll lanes -- free to cars with three or more passengers, reduced fares for two passengers or clean air vehicles. Solo drivers can pay full price to use the express lanes. The cost will go up or down depending on how crowded the lane is.

VIDEO: Caltrans breaks ground on final leg of Highway 101 expansion in North Bay

However, there have been delays. The target for completion when the project began was mid-2022. But two weeks ago, the project manager, Leo Scott, announced the opening date will be next year, perhaps in February or March.

"The contractor opted to do things out of sequence and as a result, had to actually take corrective actions that added time to the schedule," Scott said.

Those nice, new express lanes have fresh pavement but are blocked off by orange markers, and that frustrates drivers.

RELATED: Caltrans repair project brings traffic delays on Highway 101 this weekend into Marin County

Mohammad Muftah, Uber driver: "Open it up, please."

Sara, motorist: "I don't like to be stuck in traffic."

Brad Johnson, construction worker: "What are they doing? What are they really doing, putting down for a living? We don't pay for that."

Crews still have to finish installing overhead toll sensors and that work is done at night, but Caltrans keep those cones up all day.

Brad Johnson: "I work construction, so I understand guys gonna take breaks, but you don't put cones out on a live freeway and then go take a break."

Dan Noyes: "For months and months."

Brad Johnson: "Yeah."

Dan Noyes: "Over a year -- two years."

Brad Johnson: "There's just ghost cones everywhere."

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The I-Team went to the San Mateo County Transit District to interview the chair of the Joint Powers Authority that oversees the Express Lanes project.

Ricco Medina: "There's sensors, there's some fabrication that still needs to be installed. And there's the testing of it that is currently going on, correct."

Dan Noyes: "But, the on-scene work is being done overnight, isn't it?"

Ricco Medina: "A lot of that particular with the sensor reading is being done overnight."

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Medina's staff says those markers are actually affixed to the pavement with an adhesive, so they'd have to change over to movable cones. They also have to install signs and roadside tolling equipment, but that work will also be done overnight.

Dan Noyes: "I just see that in other parts of the Bay Area that they're -- if there's construction overnight -- they put up the cones, and they do it overnight, and by the morning, they're gone. Why can't you do that?"

Ricco Medina: "I think what we're trying to do is to make sure that we don't add confusion to when we start to go through the testing cycle."

After a 20-minute interview, we couldn't agree on the wisdom of keeping those lanes blocked during the day, even when no work is being done.

Dan Noyes: "I'm sorry, Ricco. It still doesn't make sense to me."

Ricco Medina: "That's all right, Dan."

But Medina says they do listen to feedback from drivers.

"There are a lot of things behind the scenes as far as safety or whether it's just trying to get things done, establish on a timeline. And so we're trying to keep all of that factored," he said.

Medina says he wants to hear what you think at info@smcexpresslanes.org

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