Expressway gap closed on Highway 101

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A gap in state law that could have made it confusing and aggravating to drive in proposed express lanes on the Peninsula was fixed Monday by new legislation.

In 2004, state legislators approved a bill to create express lanes on U.S. Highway 101 in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Starting in 2015, motorists will be able to opt to pay to travel in the lanes, a tool to ease congestion that is currently used in other parts of California.

However, under the 2004 law, the express lanes were to be monitored by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, whose jurisdiction ends at the San Mateo County border. The VTA would have been unable to construct and maintain the express lane along the 6-mile stretch of 101 between Redwood City and the county border.

Northbound motorists would have to exit out of the lane at the county line, while southbound motorists couldn’t hop into the lane until Palo Alto.

However, that headache has been cleared up by legislation authored by Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and approved on Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. Gordon’s law gives the VTA the freedom to construct the expressway infrastructure for the six miles between Redwood City and the county border.

“This legislation fixes a simple loophole to ensure express lanes are consistent along the corridor,” Gordon said.

Drivers using the express lane will pay more during busier times of the day — in some examples across the state, the fee is $8, Gordon’s aide Margot Grant said. During slow traffic times, the fee will be considerably less. The exact fees, which will be enforced by electronic tolling equipment, haven’t been determined and will not go into effect until 2015.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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