A bill allowing the creation of an 800-mile network of carpool/toll lanes in the Bay Area has cleared its first stop in the California Senate.
Assembly Bill 744 by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Newark), passed today on a 6-1 vote of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, and will next go to the Senate Appropiations Committee. Last month, the bill cleared the Assembly on a 58-18 vote.
The bill is controversial, but it keeps moving along. Some motorists detest the idea of being required to pay a toll to get access to any lane on any public freeway. But the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, sponsor of the bill, says traffic congestion can be reduced if single-occupant vehicles are allowed to pay during rush hour for the right to use a lane otherwise limited to carpools.
The lanes will be called High Occupancy Toll or HOT lanes, and the tolls, to be collected with FasTrak, will vary according to the amount of congestion in a lane.
“We have some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation and commuters are looking for options to get them to and from work more quickly,” Torrico said in a written statement. “This bill will help do that by allowing solo drivers to pay a toll to use the express lanes and by providing a seamless network for bus riders and carpools. It will also create jobs and bring about these transportation improvements decades sooner than they would occur using only traditional funding.”
One reader asked me this week if and when a HOT lane will be established along I-80 in western Contra Costa County.
That’s another hot potato. Many West Contra Costa leaders feel I-80 is too overrun with traffic to justify a HOT lane.
If the Torrico bill passes, the Bay Area Toll Authority, a sister agency of MTC, and Caltrans will have to conduct a study and hold public meetings on the feasiblity of an I-80 HOT lane before deciding to go ahead with one.