Here’s
an idea sure to generate some road rage.

The
Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional planning agency for the Bay
Area, has decided to offer solo drivers a chance to use car-pool lanes.

But
it’s going to cost you.

Under
the plan approved this week by the MTC board, solo drivers could pay a toll to
use car-pool lanes on Bay Area highways, using Fastrak or a similar electronic payment
system.

They
call them HOT lanes.

And
that may be apt given the colorful complaints about car-pool restrictions on
the new lanes on Highway 101 in Sonoma
County. The fact that state
and federal money for highway expansion generally requires new lanes to be car-pool
lanes isn’t a satisfactory answer for many people still stuck in traffic on the
old lanes.

Paying
a toll – perhaps 20- to 60-cents a mile depending on time of day and congestion
– probably won’t make anyone happier.

Toll
lanes, including privately-operated toll roads, have been in use in Southern
California for several years but this will be a first for Northern
California.

Moving
paying drivers into the toll lanes is expected to ease congestion in the
remaining lanes. Tolls could run 20- to 60-cents a mile, and vary depending on
congestion levels or time of day.

The
system is supposed to be in place beginning in about two years, starting along
the heavily-congested Interstate 580 corridor in Contra Costa
County. Eventually it
would extend to car-pool lanes throughout the region, including those in Sonoma County.


Jim Sweeney