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How Are Those New Carpool Lanes Working For You?

Caltrans and regional transportation agencies are celebrating the HOV lanes that now run on Highway 101 through Novato. Are you seeing some traffic relief?

Hey, rush hour warriors, how is the northbound commute on Highway 101 these days? Has the new carpool lane helped?

On Wednesday, one week after the northbound lane was opened up between Highway 37 and the San Marin Drive/Atherton Avenue exit, officials got together for a collective high-five at park-and-ride lot off Rowland Boulevard in Novato. 

Caltrans, the Transportation Authority of Marin and the Sonoma County Transportation Authority had a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Marin Sonoma Narrows
Widening Projects on 101.

“Today marks a major step in providing uninterrupted carpool lanes between Marin and Sonoma Counties,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in a release. “This first phase of the Marin-Sonoma Narrows widening brings us closer to our goal of reduced congestion, and increased safety along this highway.”

There is still much work to come. The HOV lane extensions were just the first of many that will widen 101 from Novato to Petaluma, known as “the Narrows.” The northbound section between San Marin/Atherton and the Redwood Landfill goes from four lanes to just two and creates a bottleneck every day.

Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold, who represents most of Novato on the county board, praised the contributions of the California Transportation Commission, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Transportation Authority of Marin and Caltrans.

“The people of Marin and Novato have waited a long time for this project," said Arnold, also a vice chair of TAM. "I am looking forward to moving ahead with the next phases.”

The $50 million project built a new carpool lane in each direction on U.S.
Route 101.

The northbound HOV lane, which opened Aug. 8, runs three miles. The new  southbound HOV lane is 1 1/2 miles between Novato Creek and Highway 37. Both carpool lanes connect to existing carpool lanes between Highway 37 to Highway 1 in the Tam Junction area.

Of the $50 million allocated for the project, $31 million came from
Proposition 1B, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond. In total,
about $14 billion in Proposition 1B funds have been distributed statewide.

Tricia Painter McKay August 17, 2012 at 02:15 AM
It's added time to my commute, between Delong and the narrows it takes more time! In the commute lane, really? 4-2 come on! We couldn't figure out 3-2....
Peggy August 17, 2012 at 02:59 AM
love the new merge lane at bel marin key & 37 only have to go one lane to be on 101 north. Much safer!
Craig Knowlton August 17, 2012 at 06:20 AM
Seems much worse. Creating a larger funnel with the same size exit hole doesn't solve anything...
Abe August 17, 2012 at 01:49 PM
There is still work to be done on the Northbound HOV lane. The sign remains posted "End Carpool Lane" on 101 at the 37 exit. This is no longer true, but plenty of single drivers hop over at that point, even though the painted diamonds continue in the lane. I have e-mailed CalTrans a few times on this, but no action as of yet.
Lou Judson August 17, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I could afford a better house in Petaluma than Novto but the Narrows makes it impossible to even consider moving North. Too bad it takes so many years to finish somethng that has been inadequate for decades! I remember when Redwood Blvd was the main freeway North. They need to make 101 six lanes to Santa Rosa, pronto! But it will be ten more years at least before that happens... The Bay Area has a truly primitive transportation system, for all our other advances...
Dave August 17, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Not much help at the Atherton Exit going North but there seems to be some improvement with cars exiting at Roland and Delong. The highway 37-101 onramp Northbound is better with the extra lane as well. The extra lane Southbound at the highway 37-101 merge is helpful in the morning.
Cindy August 17, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Why do we spend all these tax dollars if only a few people can use during rush hour. the lanes are empty 90% of the time during rush hour. traffic flows better with all lanes open. I cannot car pool because of my sales job. I see no improvement at all. Maybe they should do a trial for a week and allow all drivers to use all lanes. Nobody would be late for work. GV
Barry Kruse August 17, 2012 at 03:51 PM
There are now 4 lanes merging to 2 at the Novato Narrows and it takes twice as long as when there were only 3 going to 2. My commute has gone from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. At least they finally striped the road. The two weeks when there were no stripes and people couldn't find their lanes or when they needed to merge over were really scare.
henry August 17, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I can speak to 2-4pm and it is far worse from Ignacio to San Marin Drive. I agree with Craig's comment that the larger funnel hasn't solved anything.. it seems to create a larger slow down with traffic backing up closer to ignacio when it used to back up either at the narrows at this time.. or not at all. not good.
bob August 17, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Added more time to my commute. The waiting starts earlier now, closer to De Long. I have no idea why officials are doing a collective "hi-five". They made the problem worse. If a lane or 2 is completed from the narrows to Petaluma then there will be cause for celebration.
David Kasten August 17, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Everyone knows that the only way to fix a backed up toilet is to get a bigger toilet bowl. At least the powers that be in California.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) August 17, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Would we all agree it's better for Novato residents but worse for those who live north of here?
Janna Barkin August 17, 2012 at 06:02 PM
The back up in the acternoon is earlier and longer. I live off San Marin and I have taken to getting off at 37 and then at Black point and coming back to San Marin via Atherton!
henry August 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Brent, most comments here indicate it is worse for Novato residents..
Novato Tim August 17, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I exit northbound at DeLong, and until a few weeks ago, almost never had to slow down on 101. Now the backup starts at Rowland about half the time. It would have made much more sense to go to 3 lanes between Novato and Petaluma, then add the fourth lane.
Craig Belfor August 18, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Every plummer knows that it doesn't mater where the spigot is, at the beginning, middle, or the end, the flow will still be restricted the same. The spigot is the two lanes. In 1973 I worked nights on Sneath Lane in San Bruno, moving the Federal Records Center. We had to be there at 3.30 pm. I left my place on Gravenstein Highway east of Sebastopol at 2.45 every day and made it on time, going through Novato before the freeway bypass was built, stopping at the lights. There were only two lanes both ways all of the time, with no bottleneck. Giving us another lane for only another mile or two will not do it. It will just move the road rage a little north.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr August 18, 2012 at 09:32 PM
4 to 3 to 2, just moves the Novato Narrows a couple of miles north. It is still 2 lanes from north of San Marin to north of Petaluma. Diamond lanes are a joke. No one "commutes" because of them. People still travel alone or in a group of the same size as they always have done. CalTrans has made no beginning at widening the Petaluma River Bridge. Until they do, the Novato Narrows will still be collision central. ...and the Novato Fire Department and police will still incur the tax expense of responding.
Heidi Eberle August 22, 2012 at 08:23 PM
WOW! I watch the traffice as I go south and it seems to me the traffic is worse! My concern is...why is there a commute lane on the exit going south from Rowland? It is very scary with lanes merging from the freeway
Iggy Hop September 01, 2012 at 07:21 PM
The problem has nothing to do with the extra lane being a commute lane -- the bottleneck of 4-to-3-to-2 lanes in a half-mile stretch creates a huge mess all the time, regardless of commute hours. How did they not see this coming? And why are federal and state funds used for the small portion of a federal highway that runs through a wealthy county like Marin which has half the population (and a third the land mass) of its poor neighbor to the north? Anyone else notice how long it's taken to get the extra lane open in Petaluma (and they still haven't paved all the lanes) compared to how quickly they created the extra lane in Novato? I'd say one or two folks with the deciding vote on where to make these Highway 101 improvements either live in Marin or get their pockets lined by someone who does.
Craig Belfor September 01, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Iggy- You're implying that the power people are adding just enough lanes to keep their road open, sending the jam to the hicks up north. This would mean a gross misuse of power for personal gain,without regard to the consequences of others, something that's morally wrong and doesn't ever happen(?). You're wrong on one point: The people up north are not that poor or unrepresented, as the road construction in Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa dwarfs the road work in Marin, but your assumption that life, like politics is not fair hits the nail on the head.

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