A new toll system for solo drivers who want to use the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes on Interstate 680 is set to open Sept. 20.
The new toll lanes will run on southbound I-680 from Calaveras Road (California 84) in Sunol to Calaveras Boulevard (California 237) in Milpitas.
Since the lanes remain largely open, used by car pools, buses and motorcycles, the plan is to let single-passenger cars pay a fee to use the lane. That fee will vary based on how crowded the highway is and would ease congestion by moving some drivers off the regular lanes and onto the HOV lanes.
Automated overhead signs will indicate how much the toll will be for each section of the road. Once a driver moves into the lane, an overhead sensor will bill the FasTrak sensor inside the car.
Frank Furger, Alameda County Congestion Management Agency (ACCMA) Chief Deputy Director of Projects said the minimum toll from one of the sensors to the next would be $.30 to $.50.
"The maximum toll has not been determined. We anticipate the average toll will be about $3.00," Furger said. The price would climb as congestion increases Furger said in Florida, where a similar system is in place, some drivers immediately pull into the pay lane when they see the price rise.
"There's a confirmed number of commuters who say, 'The toll is higher, there must be some congestion ahead. I'm jumping in,'" he said.
Furger said the system will require some adjustment to determine the right tolls. If they're too high, drivers won't pay; if they're too low, the HOV lanes could become nearly as crowded as the regular lanes.
An ad campaign to raise awareness and promote use of the lane is planned, but Furger said there would be a grace period of about a year for drivers to get used to the idea of paying to move into the lane.
Drivers with passengers won't have to pay the toll, but ACCMA officials warned those drivers could be billed if they don't put their FasTrak transponders back into the Mylar bag they come in.