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San Francisco Supervisors Cool to Express Lanes on City's Freeways

The county agency that had hoped to do downtown cordon pricing now wants to add express lanes on Highways 101 and 280, but city supervisors are divided on charging solo drivers the option to buy into managed lanes. Both freeways lack carpool lanes.
January 3, 2018, 1pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The notion of charging drivers to use an express lane met heat from from the supervisors, who earlier this month voted against funding $4 million to study express lanes in the next phase of the study," reports Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, who covers transportation for the San Francisco Examiner, on December 27. 

At the Dec. 5 meeting of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the supervisors, acting in their capacity as the Board of Commissioners, "voted 5-4 in favor of funding the study, but with the absence of two supervisors were unable to garner the necessary six-vote majority," adds Rodriguez. The chair, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, is a supporter of the study.

The project, dubbed the 'U.S. 101/I-280 Managed Lanes Project, consist of three sections totaling 5.9 miles, with a notable 4.1-mile gap. See map (png). [Click again to enlarge.]

The critics on the board said I-280 should not be the focus of an express lane study, and said it does not address downtown traffic congestion.

“I would offer that downtown is moving toward 280 at a rapid clip,” Peskin rebuffed, arguing that downtown traffic is already there, and must be managed soon."

The north end of I-280 is adjacent to booming Mission Bay, where the Golden State Warriors NBA arena is under construction.

To the critics' point, the authority did propose cordon pricing for downtown in 2010, somewhat similar to New York City's proposal that died in 2008 and now is being reborn with support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Rather ironically, the San Francisco cordon pricing plan was dealt a major setback due to opposition from the city's southern neighbor, San Mateo County, for tolling the same two freeways, although all motorists would have had to pay, not just those in express lanes, illustrating the difference between toll lanes and toll roads.

San Mateo is now partnering with Caltrans in proposing express lanes on Highway 101, dubbed the SM 101 - Managed Lanes Project (MLP) from Redwood City to San Bruno. It is currently working through the environmental review process.

"Tilly Chang, executive director of the transportation authority, told the Examiner if the project was enacted, some portions of the highways would see some existing lanes repurposed to be express lanes, as well as new lanes created on the shoulder of the freeway," adds Rodriguez.

Andrew Heidel, senior transportation planner for the authority, indicated that "[a]ny funding garnered would likely be used to pay for transportation, bicycle and other road improvements aimed at easing traffic congestion."

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Published on Wednesday, December 27, 2017 in San Francisco Examiner
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