New carpool lane to debut along I-880

A new High Occupancy Vehicle lane is scheduled to make its debut on Interstate Highway 880 in Oakland and San Leandro Monday morning.

Caltrans added the three-mile stretch of the new HOV lane in the southbound direction, from Hegenberger Road to Marina Boulevard in an effort to alleviate traffic in the area during peak driving times, according to Caltrans officials.

The new lane will be available for drivers with two or more passengers, Monday through Friday, from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the morning and then from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the afternoon.

The three-mile HOV lane in the highway’s southbound direction is an extension of an already existing HOV lane that stretches from Marina Boulevard in San Leandro down to the westbound State Highway 237 interchange in Milpitas.

Construction on the project began in January of 2013.

As congestion on Highway 880 has grown in the last few years, Caltrans engineers estimate that the highway receives about 240,000 vehicles on its roadway daily, in both the northbound and southbound directions.

Heavy-load trucks account for about 9 percent of the highway’s daily traffic, Caltrans officials said.

Senior Transportation Engineer Peter Lau said:

“I think along 880, it’s close to capacity, so were handling maybe 1,200 to 1,500 cars an hour in that lane [during peak hours]. So when you want to drive with two people, three people, whatever it is, you are putting more people through those lanes during those peak hours. … We estimate that with these three additional miles, the HOV lane can save about five minutes maximum, during the peak of commute hours.”

In addition to the new HOV lane, Caltrans did additional work in the three-mile stretch, such as local street work, ramp work, as well as the demolition and reconstruction of the Marina Boulevard and Davis Street overcrossings.

Senior Construction Engineer Scott McCrank said:

“One of the big aspects we’ve had in the past were high-load hits; truck carriers, people hauling equipment. They would have a load that is above permit rated. So at 14 feet 10 inches, they were maybe 15 feet. So they would clip the bridge and damage the bridge and it would cause either the bridge or the local street to be closed because of the damage to structure and we’d also have some freeway closures. … Now with these two new bridges, our clearances are over 18 feet. So essentially, there should be no issues with high-load hits in the future.”

The addition of the new HOV lane is welcome during National Carpool Month, according to the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s Communications Manager, Heather Barber:

“If we move more people over into the carpool lanes, we have more capacity than normal for the all purpose lanes. So, this really is a benefit to everyone and we hope to support carpoolers and getting folks to see the benefits of carpooling via the time-saving aspect.”

The total cost of the project is estimated at about $107 million and was funded through a combination of federal, state and local fund sources, according to Caltrans.

Although the HOV lane is slated to open Monday at 5 a.m., pending roadwork that has been scheduled, the lane may not open until Tuesday at the latest, according to Caltrans.