Regional partners gather to celebrate addition of 22 miles of express lanes enhancing travel for commuters and transit operators
The San Mateo County Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority (SMCEL-JPA) and Caltrans hosted a ceremonial event today with regional partners for the opening of the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes. The event, held at the Caltrans Park & Ride Lot in San Mateo, celebrated the new express lanes created to bring much-needed relief to motorists and transit providers traversing on U.S. 101 in San Mateo County. The multi-year, multi-agency project was designed to reduce traffic congestion and to enhance travel for motorists, carpools/vanpools, transit operators, and transit riders in the area.
The celebratory event featured several guest speakers who were instrumental in the project including:
• Rico E. Medina, Chair of the San Mateo County Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority (SMCEL-JPA) and San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA), and Mayor of San Bruno
• Kevin Mullin, U.S. Congressman (CA – 15th Congressional District)
• Diane Papan, California State Assemblymember (District 21)
• Dina El-Tawansy, District 4 Director, Caltrans
• Carl Guardino, Vice Chair, California Transportation Commission (CTC)
• Davina Hurt, Chair, City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG), Belmont City Vice Mayor, Vice Chair of Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and Board Member at California Air Resources Board (CARB)
• David Canepa, Metropolitan Transportation Commission Commissioner (MTC) and San Mateo County Supervisor
• Gina Papan, Metropolitan Transportation Commission Commissioner, Board Member of SMCEL-JPA, and Millbrae City Councilmember
• Rosanne Foust, President and CEO, San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA)
• Laura Bent, CEO, Samaritan House
The San Mateo 101 Express Lanes are comprised of 22 miles of express lanes in each direction on U.S. 101 from the San Mateo County/Santa Clara County Line to I-380 in South San Francisco. This stretch seamlessly connects to the express lanes in Santa Clara County. The U.S. 101 corridor is a critical trade and commute route running through the Peninsula connecting San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
The $581 million San Mateo 101 Express Lanes Project, which was completed within budget, was funded through a combination of federal, state, local, regional, and private grants and contributions. With more than $53 million pledged from the private sector, it represents one of the largest public-private infrastructure partnerships in the history of the region. Additional funds include $9.5 million in federal funding, $95 million of regional funds and nearly $307 million in state funding, in addition to funds from a $100 million bond issued and backed by San Mateo County Transportation Authority sales tax funds.
Caltrans managed the design and construction of the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes in partnership with the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) and the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG). The Bay Area Infrastructure Financing Authority, a Joint Powers Authority between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority, operates the express lanes under contract with the SMCEL-JPA.
The construction of the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes was completed in two phases. The first phase from San Mateo County/Santa Clara County line to Whipple Avenue opened to traffic last year in February 2022. And most recently, Phase Two – Whipple Ave to I-380 in South San Francisco – was opened in March 2023.
The SMCEL-JPA also funds the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes Community Transportation Benefits Program that helps cover transportation costs for qualifying individuals in San Mateo County. Participants can choose from a $100 transit credit on a Clipper Card or a $100 Toll Credit on a FasTrak® transponder.
All motorists who use the express lanes must have a valid FasTrak® account with a FasTrak® Flex toll tag or FasTrak® CAV (Clean Air Vehicle) toll tag displayed in the vehicle. Those without valid FasTrak® toll tags will be in violation and are subject to fines and penalties. For more information about FasTrak® or to purchase a toll tag, visit https://getfastrak.org/.
The San Mateo 101 Express Lanes will operate from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and they are managed by dynamic pricing, meaning toll rates will be adjusted based on traffic use for more reliable trips times for vehicles, including transit. The cost to access the lanes will be clearly displayed on electronic overhead signs so motorists will know the trip cost prior to entering the express lanes.
Below are quotes from strong supporters of the San Mateo 101 Express Lanes project:
“Here in the Bay Area, we recognize that a strong transportation network is vital for fueling economic development. Building and maintaining solid infrastructure is an integral part of our region as well as our state’s success,” said SMCEL-JPA Chair Rico E. Medina. “After years of thoughtful planning and engagement in response to the crippling congestion within the Highway 101 corridor, the San Mateo County 101 Express Lanes will bring much needed relief to our roadways in a corridor that runs through one of the biggest economic engines in our country.”
“A project like this is a massive undertaking and a collaboration of many people and many organizations,” said Congressman Kevin Mullin. “It was made possible by California Senate Bill 1, which I was happy to support as a California Assemblymember in 2017, which is a legislative package that is investing $54 billion over a decade to fix roads, freeways, and bridges across California. Of that state funding, $220 million was dedicated to the current San Mateo County express lanes project. I applaud the tireless work of Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to see this project to completion.”
“I am so pleased to see the grand opening of the 101 Express Lane project in San Mateo County. These lanes will reduce congestion, encourage carpooling and improve the commuter experience along 101. Congratulations to Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transit Authority, City and County Association of Governments of San Mateo County and all other stakeholders,” said Senator Josh Becker.
“From the beginning of the project, we engaged in a robust community dialogue, and what we heard was that transportation costs are a real burden for families, traffic presented a real quality-of-life issue, and community members didn’t see how a new express lane was going to benefit those who were reliant on transit,” said Assemblymember Diane Papan, who was the former Chair of the SMCEL-JPA Board and on the board when an equity study was initiated which eventually led to the development of the Community Transportation Benefits program. “In response, we developed a choice-based, equity program to actively address our communities’ needs. Now community members can choose the benefit that best meets their needs through this program. This program is about mobility. It is about access to opportunity. It is about choice.”
“Thank you to everyone who worked on this massive project for your collaboration and determination to make today possible. My hope is that this project will result in my constituents spending less time staring at brake lights and more time anywhere other than sitting in traffic. I applaud the San Mateo County Express Lanes Joint Powers Authority and their project partners for their commitment to the sustainability of the project, including investments that will do a better job keeping trash and pollutants out of the Bay, ” said Assemblymember Marc Berman.
“The US 101 corridor is vital to thousands of commuters every day,” said Caltrans District 4 Director Dina El-Tawansy. “With a focus on creative collaboration and the support of SB1 funding, Caltrans has successfully delivered a project that can reduce congestion. This project also provides equitable solutions to assist all commuters whether you are driving or utilizing transit. “
“U.S. 101 is a vital corridor that millions of Californians rely on each week,” said Vice Chair of California Transportation Commission (CTC) Carl Guardino. “This project will certainly help reduce congestion and transit times, benefit the economy, and give time back to drivers.”
“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing us and future generations. To improve our climate resiliency, the State of California has a goal of reducing greenhouse gasses (GHG) by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030,” said Chair of C/CAG Davina Hurt. “Our express lanes are a crucial strategy to help us accomplish our shared climate goals. By prioritizing and investing in mass transit, shuttles, and carpools, our express lanes will support the reduction of single occupancy vehicles.” The increased number of trips in high occupancy vehicles will improve our air quality and commute times while lowering our carbon footprint. Win-wins for our environment and mobility.”
“The express lanes network is a key component of Plan Bay Area as it helps achieve the regional goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting transit priority, promoting use of transit and other high-occupancy modes, and advancing equity throughout the region, which is why MTC has been a partner and supported the US 101 Express Lanes project,” said MTC Commissioner David Canepa.
“We are very proud of everyone’s efforts to bring the new express lanes facility to fruition. This is the result of a multi-year, multi-agency project initiative, said MTC Commissioner Gina Papan. “While the JPA is the governing agency, as a current member of the Board and an MTC Commissioner, I am proud of the great partnership that was formed with BAIFA, as the operator of the lanes, and the major role MTC has played in supporting the project.”
“In addition to more reliable travel times, express lanes fuel the economic engine in the region by providing existing businesses with greater access to an expanded workforce,” said SAMCEDA President & CEO Rosanne Foust. “Improved transportation options will lead to expanded economic development opportunities, stimulating job growth, and attracting new investment along the Peninsula.”
“Samaritan House is thrilled to be part of the first express lanes-funded, choice-based, equity program in America,” said CEO of Samaritan House Laura Bent. “The program helps qualifying San Mateo County residents cover some of their transportation costs by offering the option of two different transportation benefits to qualified individuals.”
About the SMCEL-JPA: The San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) and the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) formed SMCEL-JPA in 2019 to manage the express lanes. The SMCEL-JPA is responsible for setting policies for operations of the express lanes.