I-80’s ‘pay to drive’ HOT lane takes a back seat

By: Jon Brines Gold Country News Service Correspondent
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I-80 Hot lane projections Fiscal year 2026 to 2035 • $10.3 million to $30.9 million in revenue • $27.1 million to 27.3 million in expenses Total: $16.8 million (negative) or $3.6 million profit The new trend in freeway design won’t be coming to Placer County anytime soon. The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency studied and ultimately shot down a proposal that would allow anyone to drive in the car pool lane on I-80 from the Highway 65 interchange to I-5 in Sacramento by paying a toll. The so-called “hot lane” would not have tollbooths but rather electronic monitoring such as Fastpass to verify if the single occupant vehicle is supposed to be driving in the High Occupancy Vehicle lane or diamond lane as it is also referred. Right now, State Route 91 in Orange County, I-15 in San Diego County and several Bay Area freeways including I-680, State Route 85, I-580 and US 101 either have it or plans are in the works. The purpose is congestion relief and a way to make money. Rocklin resident Kerryn Duncan frequently uses the freeway and said the High Occupancy Vehicle lane would help. “There is a lot of congestion but only in certain spots,” Duncan said. “When I am driving into Sacramento no matter what time of day, it’s still a problem. I think it would help a lot of commuters.” Longtime Rocklin resident Russell Holland said he would pay $2 to $3 if he needed to use the lane. “They need to open it up more,” Holland said. “We need something out there in both directions.” Last week, the transportation agency stamped the plan dead on arrival after a study concluded it wouldn’t make money for about 25 years after it was built. “What a waste of taxpayer money,” transportation agency member and Colfax council member Steve Harvey said. “I’m glad this decision came down that we’re not doing this.” The study projected by 2035, the program would either show a profit of $3.6 million or be in the red by $16.8 million. Transportation planning agency member and Roseville Mayor Gina Garbolino said the uncertainty in the economy makes it virtually impossible to project future revenue to know if the program would ever be solvent. “In the end, we decided this is something we didn’t want to focus on right now,” Garbolino said. “But we’re not closing the book. We could decide to look at it again.” Auburn resident Paul Beckley who uses I-80 for business applauded the board’s decision. “It’s a good thing to put it off,” Beckley said. “It sounds like more government.” With the bad economy, Auburn resident Vince Dileo said he “couldn’t stomach” any more expenses. “It’s ridiculous. We’re being taxed to death one way or another,” Dileo said. Transportation planning agency officials recommend inaction until I-80 conditions significantly change.