The commute along Interstate 15 in the inland North County was about 10 minutes faster last year than it was about a decade ago, before express lanes were added, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the San Diego Association of Governments.
The study by SANDAG shows that the average drive along I-15 between state routes 78 and 163 took about a half-hour in 2012, compared with 40 minutes before the additional lanes for carpools, buses and FasTrak members were built.
Typical vehicle speeds were estimated to reach more than 60 mph last year, where they used to be around 30-40 mph, the regional planning agency reported.
SANDAG also said almost 26,000 FasTrak transponders are in use for solo drivers, and more than 23,500 carpools also are using the new lanes.
“The tremendous investment the region has made in the I-15 express lanes has paid off big time,” SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos said.
“Not only have the express lanes cut travel time and reduced commuter frustration, the lanes also are generating revenue to support transit services in the corridor. About $1 million a year from the I-15 FasTrak program goes toward transit.”
The two express lanes in each direction were built in the freeway median in three segments.
The first eight miles opened in September 2008 and March 2009, the second eight miles in November 2011, and the last four miles in January 2012.
The agency, along with Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transit System, is upgrading transit stations along the I-15 corridor and are scheduled to launch a “bus rapid transit” system next year. The buses will use the express lanes and direct access ramps to reduce commute times.
SANDAG also plans to launch a $12.3 million federally funded demonstration project to manage freeway ramp meters and nearby traffic signals to reduce congestion and route drivers around major incidents.