Highway 101 toll will be as high as $3 a mile

Caltrans has put up several signs on Highway 101 that indicate the toll lanes are on the way. Post photo.

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Daily Post Correspondent

When new toll lanes open on Highway 101 in San Mateo County, drivers who use the lanes will pay a variable rate that depends on the amount of traffic and that could be as high as $3 per mile.

That’s according to an application to operate the toll lanes from a group of San Mateo County governments. Construction of the toll lane project in San Mateo County started in March and is expected to be finished in 2022.

The $514 million project will create 22 miles of toll lanes on Highway 101, from the Santa Clara County border to highway 380 in San Bruno.

From the southern end of San Mateo County to Whipple Avenue in Redwood City, existing high occupancy vehicle or HOV lanes in each direction of Highway 101 will be converted to toll lanes. Between Whipple Avenue and Highway 380, a new toll lane will be added in each direction.

The toll lanes, which in government-speak are often referred to as express lanes or managed lanes, are expected to be in operation from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

An unresolved question is whether vehicles with two passengers as well as clean-air vehicles will be charged a lower rate to use the toll lanes than single-occupant vehicles.

FasTrak responders needed

All vehicles using the Highway 101 toll lanes will be required to carry a FasTrak transponder. The transponders might be equipped with a switch that motorists can set to indicate how many people are in the car.

The toll lanes are expected to bring in about $29 million a year, according to the application submitted to the California Transportation Commission. The revenue figure assumes that cars with three or more occupants won’t be charged a toll, vehicles with two occupants will pay half price, and the maximum toll rate will be $3 per mile.

The California Transportation Commission approved the application in August.

Plans for the toll or “express” lanes in San Mateo County come as a similar project is in the works in Santa Clara County.

The $56 million project includes converting existing carpool lanes to toll lanes on Highway 101 from Highway 237 to the San Mateo County line in Palo Alto. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) says it expects the project to be finished in 2021.
The application for the San Mateo County project says that the goal is to have toll systems that are consistent throughout the region.

Smoothing the flow of traffic

The toll lanes are intended to smooth the flow of traffic as Bay area highways become more congested. Transportation officials contend that if they simply added a new lane without restrictions, it would quickly become congested. Car pool lanes, on the other hand, aren’t used enough.

Traffic flow in the toll lanes can be controlled through continuous monitoring of the toll and non-toll lanes. The toll rate can be adjusted as often as every five minutes. Under federal requirements, traffic in the toll lanes must be going 45 mph or faster most of the time.

Paying for a traffic lane twice

Not everyone is sold on the idea of the toll lanes. In an email to the California Transportation Commission in July, one resident said the toll lanes are “ridiculous.”

“You use taxpayer money to build a new lane that you then charge people a toll to use,” the commenter said.

Another commenter predicted the toll lanes would backfire.

“Taking away one lane to use an express lane will not work,” the commenter wrote. “It will not ease the congestion, rather it will increase the congestion on 101/92 and the city streets and will only afford the most affluent to be able to use those toll lanes.”

The group overseeing the San Mateo County toll lanes is called the San Mateo County Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority. It consists of representatives of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority and the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County.

The JPA said that funding for the San Mateo County toll lanes was coming from a variety of sources, including federal money, San Mateo County Transportation Authority Measure A funds, regional toll funds and private funds.


  1. Have been using the carpool lanes since 2006. It is now faster in some areas to be not in the carpool lane. Good luck with the toll logic…

  2. This is the most ridiculous waste of our tax paying money that I have seen In a while! It will just conjest the freeway more than it is now just so they can put more of our money in their pockets

    • Every Californian that voted for the increased gas tax were fooled! You didn’t read the fine print did you?! Why would you think that the government agencies are going to make life easier for us?! Somehow benefit us?! The toll lanes will be beautifully paved as they steal your money! Have you seen the neither lanes on 101 from San Francisco to Santa Clara? Terrible! And guess what? They can continue to increase the gas tax in future years without a vote! Yes!! Thank you!

  3. All I see is greed; everything looks great on paper when it benefits you!
    This is the same concept of legalizing the lottery. It was supposedly enacted to solely benefit the schools/education; look how WONDERFUL that turned out to be! No libraries, no books in classes, no lunch programs,
    no physical education classes, schools shutting,
    not enough money for teachers;etc. etc.. Now it’s the highways! Those tolls will NOT be accessible to low income or extremely low income citizens whom are at an disadvantage by way of fixed income and/or disabilities. But then, what do care, right??! What idiots!!

  4. I don’t remember any public hearings or meetings about these toll lanes. I don’t think it was on the ballot. When did we, the taxpayers, get a say on this? I’m looking at you Jerry Hill!

      • How exactly did you pay for BART? When I purchased my car, I paid a tax that goes into a transportation fund, and pays for BART. Every year I pay the DMV another tax, which again goes to transportation, not roads. Every time I put gas in my car, I pay, currently, 47.3 cents per gallon into that same transportation fund. Rather than going to building new roads, or widening existing roads, the money goes to public transportation. You haven’t paid for anything, and the price to ride BART should be increased, while the taxes paid by drivers should either be used for roads.

  5. There is always money to be found when it comes to building more roads. Caltrain, however, lacksba dedicated source of funding. More roads = more drivers = more pollution. Then it’s time to build more roads again

  6. Caltrain, BART, AC, etc., never pay for themselves with fares, so they require subsidies. Cars, on the other hand, are taxed at purchase, they’re taxed annually with DMV fees and they’re taxed during gas purchases. Those funds are put into a big pot called “transportation” (not roads), and the money is used for mostly for mass transit. Very little goes to highways, which explains all of the potholes and dilapidated bridges. Raise the fares for Caltrain and BART, so that they’re self-supporting. Quit taxing drivers who are already paying more than their fair share.

  7. The $514 million project will create 22 miles of toll lanes on Highway 101, from the Santa Clara County border to highway 380 in San Bruno.

    Later on it says $56 million?

    How much is this project? NA neary 18 year payback would be fiscally irresponsible.

  8. This is totally efffed up. If I drive 25 miles one way I could end up paying $75??? That can’t be right. Someone steer me to the correct answer, please!!!

  9. Flummoxed, you’ve got it right. Caltrans and C/CAG see this as a pot of gold, a revenue fiesta. Sure, it seems expensive to you and me, but it’s a mere pittance to the fat cat in Atherton or Woodside.

  10. I have another question: $514M to “create 22 miles of toll lanes on Highway 101, from the Santa Clara County border to highway 380 in San Bruno”… Which is about $25M per mile to add one more lane to the existing highway… Is it too expensive? Are there any resource that we can take a look about how the budget will be distributed?

  11. both carpool lanes have existed for years, and in the last 4 to 5 years due to transplants they are practically filled up every morning and afternoon during commute hours. When did these guys ever get in their head that this would ease congestion? Great, now put a ton of HOV stickered vehicles back to the same gridlock to create even more gridlock you idiots! This is why the idiots at Sacramento need to be voted out.

  12. Just keep voting the same way that you have been voting! Why are you surprised? The funny thing is the same peaple who move out of California because of high taxes and inflated cost of living, keep voting the same way in the states where they moved to. Bringing the same politics!
    Check out what the money has been spent on.

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