South Bay toll lanes debut Thursday

Starting Thursday, South Bay commuters will be able to legally drive in select carpool lanes without passengers for a fee — anywhere from 30 cents to six dollars, depending on traffic.

About 300,000 commuters clog Interstate 880 and Highway 237 in Milpitas each day. Bottlenecks and frustration are the result as people frequently struggle through traffic on their way to work and school.

The toll lanes use FasTrak transponders to bill people for the optional convenience of making their commute more predictable and in theory, quicker.

Sunday, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority ran tests to make sure Thursday’s lane debut goes smoothly. It is the first of several stretches of road where VTA plans on implementing toll commuter lanes.

While VTA officials contend the toll lanes are for the common good, several Milpitas City officials have taken issues with the plan, including Mayor Jose Esteves.

Esteves told VTA officials in February:

“It’s not acceptable as far as I am a resident and a mayor, because you inconvenience us and you’re going to say it’s for a smooth flow. I would go for more carpoolers it’s the very essence, the very purpose of carpooling that’s being missed. So I strongly disagree and protest.”

The $11 million dollar project is projected to create a half million dollars in revenue annually for VTA once it is implemented.