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Work continues on I-680 express lanes

MTC: Project on track for spring opening, FasTrak Flex tags will be needed

Overnight work is ongoing for the planned Interstate 680 express lanes in the San Ramon Valley, with the project still on schedule for completion next spring, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) said in its October project update.

Intermittent nightly closures will take place this month in northbound and southbound directions on I-680 in the median and the lane closest to the shoulder from Martinez to Dublin as part of the project, MTC officials said.

Crews are working to install toll readers, enforcement cameras and antennas as part of completing the fiber-optic communications network.

The estimated $45 million San Ramon Valley express lanes project runs from Walnut Creek to Dublin and involves converting existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes into toll express lanes across approximately 23 miles overall.

Designed as a congestion-relief project, the express lanes will run on southbound I-680 from Rudgear Road to Alcosta Boulevard and on northbound I-680 from Alcosta to Livorna Road in Alamo.

The express lanes would be free to access for carpools, vanpools, public transit, motorcycles and eligible clean-air vehicles while other solo-occupant vehicles could pay a toll to use the lanes from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays.

"Tolls on express lanes will be based on the level of congestion and the length of the trip. The higher the congestion, the higher the toll," MTC officials explained.

The San Ramon-Walnut Creek segment is the first of three proposed MTC projects aimed at creating express lanes on I-680 most of the way from Alcosta to the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, according to the MTC.

The San Ramon Valley project hit a milestone this summer with MTC officials stating a majority of civil construction was completed. That phase has included installation of overhead sign structures, construction of enforcement areas and maintenance vehicle pull-outs, and laying conduit for the toll system and communications network.

The MTC also reminded drivers this month about the need to obtain a FasTrak Flex toll tag in advance of the spring in order to use the express lanes.

The FasTrak Flex reader offers adjustable settings based on one, two or three-plus vehicle occupants.

Solo drivers will need to set their FasTrak Flex tag to the "1" position before their trip so they will be charged the proper amount when using the express lanes, MTC officials said.

Carpool drivers with one passenger will set their reader to the "2" position, while drivers with 2 or more passengers, motorcycles or eligible clean air vehicle drivers will set their tags to the "3+" position -- with the "2" and "3+" settings allowing the cars to use the lanes for free.

The tag settings will also trip beacons that allow California Highway Patrol officers to enforce vehicle occupancy requirements, according to the MTC. Electronic and visual assessments will be used to identify express lane violators, with the CHP responsible for enforcement.

Meanwhile, overnight construction on I-680 express lanes will continue intermittently this month. Work hours are Mondays through Thursdays 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., Fridays 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. and Saturdays 7 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Work crews will also be present on some city streets during the day near I-680 from Martinez to Dublin with temporary pedestrian detours to maintain public safety, MTC officials said. They also advised construction is subject to weather conditions and the work schedule is dynamic, subject to change without notice.

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