The Interstate 580 toll express lanes opened in the eastbound direction at 5 a.m. Friday and are set to open Monday at 5 a.m. westbound, completing a $55 million project that has been underway for more than a year.
The new lanes through the Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore corridor will give carpool drivers a chance to skirt heavy commute-hour traffic and, for solo drivers, the same opportunity for a fee.
The new lanes will feature "near-continuous" access so drivers can enter and exit at almost any point instead of waiting for dedicated entry and exit zones.
The lanes will be free for carpools, van-pools, clean-air vehicles, buses and motorcycles who use a new version of the FasTrak transponder, called a FasTrak Flex toll tag, and set the transponder to 2 or 3+. That will send a signal to overhead monitors not to charge that vehicle.
Solo drivers can also use the toll lanes, using their current FasTrack transponders or by setting the new ones to 1. They will be charged at the solo driver rate.
The new FasTrak Flex toll tags can be purchased at Costco, Safeway or Walgreens stores or online at www.bayareafastrak.org.
Operated by the Alameda County Transportation Commission and enforced by the California Highway Patrol, the express lanes feature two eastbound lanes and one westbound express lane through the Tri-Valley corridor between San Ramon Road/Foothill Road and Greenville Road. They will operate Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Drivers may enter or exit the express lanes anywhere there is "skip striping" but must not cross the portions of the express lanes where there are double white lines.
Drivers in the westbound express lane will need to exit the toll lane before Hacienda in order to access I-680.
A period of adjustment and associated delays are expected as drivers familiarize themselves with the new lanes. Ongoing testing is anticipated during the first weeks of operation. Speeds are expected to normalize as drivers adjust to the lanes.
"We understand that it might take time for drivers to become accustomed to the new lanes," said Art Dao, executive director of the ACTC.
He added, "We are working on making this new facility operate as smoothly as possible and will make adjustments along the way to address real-time traffic conditions to make the corridor move more efficiently."