Roadshow: ‘What is the point of express lanes?’ unhappy commuters ask

Traffic passes underneath the newly installed Express Lanes sign on eastbound Interstate 580 in Livermore, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. The Express Lanes through the Tri-Valley corridor are toll-free for carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, buses and eligible clean-air vehicles with FasTrak. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group Archives)

Q: Question: What is the purpose of express lanes? Seriously.

Denarious Moore

A: Seriously, that is THE question of the day following the opening of the Interstate 680 express lanes last month through the San Ramon Valley. Many are not thrilled.

Q: I’m driving north on 680 and the new express lanes are causing people to be backed up on the three remaining lanes. And this is after 9 a.m. which normally would allow us to use the carpool lane that used to open to single drivers after 9 a.m. but now runs from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. as an express lane.

Instead of cars free flowing on four lanes, now we’re down to three lanes until 8 p.m.

Denarious Moore

A: Get used to it. All new express lanes will most certainly be in effect from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Q: The I-680 express lanes are turning into a disaster for local communities.

Unlike the Sunol Grade and other areas, the San Ramon Valley is an urban area. Most citizens jump on the freeway to go one or two exits to shop or dinner. We’re not “long haul” travelers, just folks who avoid city street traffic lights.

When there is a wreck on the freeway, large numbers of people take the nearest exit and hit the side streets. In this case, the towns of Danville and Alamo are gridlocked for hours.

Bob Fish

A: And …

Q: Now you get people tailgating you in all lanes, people that zip in and out of the express lanes before the camera areas and a bunch of heavy traffic in the right three lanes and one left lane that is practically empty.

Russ Hills
San Jose

A: OK, I can only offer the need for some patience. Drivers need to get accustomed to the change and that may take many weeks. The purpose of express lanes is to give you an option around the gridlock if you’re willing to pay for a better ride.

And if the carpool/express lane fills up – as is happening – FasTrak officials can kick out solo drivers or raise the toll to discourage using those lanes.

Or they can raise the carpool minimum to three people, a possibility that is now being considered. Which could be the next burning question.


Q: I frequently drive on Interstate 5 and Highway 99 and am shocked to see many big rigs outfitted with “Big Rig Lug Nut Spikes,” which are spikes placed on the front wheel that extend out 5 to 6 inches.

Like the chariot wheels in Ben Hur, these devices could cause massive damage to another vehicle. How can this be legal?

Kathleen Lassle

A: This is not what it seems. These are most likely aluminum and fake lug nuts
that will break off if hit.