Published August 19, 2014
Volume 22, Number 8

HMM Improves Traffic Flow with Express Lanes
Work Eases Bay Area Traffic Woes
Hatch Mott MacDonald

By Zoe Francis

Traffic along the severely congested I-580 freeway will get much needed relief next year when express lanes in both directions are opened to ease gridlock.
The engineers at Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM) are working with local and regional transportation agencies to add express lanes to ease traffic by allowing single drivers to use the carpool lane for a fee.
The firm is partnering with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and other agencies to develop 550 miles of express lanes by 2035.
“We are part of the consulting team selected to provide program management to help Bay Area Infrastructure Financing Authority (BAIFA) and MTC implement the express lanes in the Bay Area,” Raj Murthy, vice president of HMM said. “It will allow single drivers the same benefits of carpooling by paying a toll.”
HMM is based in New Jersey with its West Coast headquarters in Hacienda. The firm offers a wide variety of engineering services for infrastructure projects, both public and private.
Express lanes have been popular for many years to ease traffic in Los Angeles and San Diego. HMM helped develop and implement the Bay Area’s first express lane on southbound I-680 between highways 84 and 237. That 14-mile stretch opened in 2010.
“The idea is to convert high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes or carpool lanes into toll lanes for single drivers,” Murthy explained.
HOV lanes were meant to solve California’s traffic woes by adding a fourth lane most highways did not have, but allowing only cars with several occupants to use those lanes. The problem is that most HOV lanes are not used to their full capacity.
“Express lanes are one concept that transportation agencies are employing to improve mobility,” Murthy said. “It offers a choice, not to make money – the agencies may or may not make a profit from express lanes – but it offers an alternative for a single driver to utilize that (lane). Any excess revenues will be reinvested in the corridor.”
Express lanes have been criticized for the perception that only rich people will pay to use the faster-moving lanes.
“High-income folks are not the people using those lanes most often,” he noted. “It’s the folks who want to get home to relieve a babysitter on time or get to a meeting. It’s everyday folks.”
Express lanes are free for carpoolers and people driving all-electric vehicles. Single drivers must have FasTrack electronic toll devices to pay for using the express lane.
Currently, HMM is working with the Alameda County Transportation Commission to convert an existing HOV lane on I-580 into an express lane and an entirely new lane will be added, making two eastbound express lanes. The westbound direction will get one express lane added. The lanes in both directions will run for roughly 14 miles from Foothill Road to just east of Greenville Road.
The southbound 680 express lanes offer drivers limited access points for entering and leaving the express lane. The 580 express lanes will be much more flexible.
“In the 580 corridor, the express lanes will have continuous access,” he explained. “The bottom line is it will be just like an HOV lane. You can get in or out of the express lanes most of the way. People can get into the express lane, travel for a couple of exits and then get out.”
Express lanes are monitored to make sure they do not get too congested and, thus, slow the flow of traffic. If the average express lane speed consistently drops below 45 miles per hour, electronic signs will restrict lane usage to carpools only.
Alameda County’s southbound I-680 express lane is funded with a half-cent sales tax approved by voters. Another half-cent sales tax boost will be on the November ballot so that transportation projects such as express lanes and public transit can continue to be funded.
“The idea is to provide choice to allow people to pay tolls and use the lanes,” Murthy said. “It will really help relieve the congestion overall in that corridor and it will benefit everybody.”
Learn more about Hatch Mott MacDonald at hatchmott.com. Search the HMM website for “express lanes” for a press release about the express lanes.

Also in this issue...