Caltrans this week opened a new southbound carpool lane on Highway 101 in Novato and in a couple of weeks plans to open a northbound carpool lane there.

Both are signs that the widening of  101 from northern Marin County to northern Petaluma is inching along, although closing the carpool gap will take years to finish.

The new southbound lane runs from Novato Creek to Highway 37. The northbound lane is to open Aug. 9 from Highway 37 to Atherton Avenue. The construction of  both, which are the fourth lane in each direction, cost a total of $49.3 million and took about a year to do.

Marin’s carpool-lane hours are 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. southbound and 4:30 to 7 p.m. northbound.

The highway’s widening in Marin is scheduled to continue later this year with crews beginning work to extend the southbound carpool lane from Atherton Avenue to Novato Creek and the northbound lane from Atherton Avenue to a bit south of the Redwood Landfill dump. Completion is scheduled for fall 2013.

After that, the next stretch of 101 likely to be widened is from about the Petaluma Auto Mall to a bit south of East Washington Street in Petaluma. Caltrans spokesman Steve A. Williams said that project is being designed with construction expected in 2015 or later, depending upon funding.

Future projects to widen 101 south to Novato is awaiting funding for design work and later construction, he said.

If you commute through Marin, drop us a comment below to let us know what you think of the new lanes.


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  1. JC

    Does anyone not see that traffic is going to come to a halt worse than it does now north of Atherton? 4 lanes to 2 in like 1/4 mile? Are you kidding?

    July 26th, 2012 9:01 am

  2. JCB

    JC, nail on the head. What should have been done, and any fourth grader could see this is 3 lanes all the way first then extend the carpool lanes. The narrows has always been the issue. Adding a 3rd lane there would have helped more than what they did. Is CalTrans familiar with an hourglass? That is exactly what the just created.

    July 26th, 2012 9:25 am

  3. Matt

    I commute from Petaluma to SF every day. The worst stretch by far is northbound from northern Novato to Petaluma. I can’t wait until the entire Narrows are widened, but it sounds like that’s a long way off. I agree that going from 4 lanes to 2 north of Novato will be a mess. It’s already a rat’s nest going from 3 lanes to 2.

    July 26th, 2012 10:15 am

  4. joe

    While Governors across America have all this gasoline tax money they had better redo all our highways , I for one am tired of having to dodge pot holes! ! !

    July 26th, 2012 10:31 am

  5. Karen

    JC, logic doesn’t seem to matter when dealing with the way the streets and highways are planned in Sonoma and Marin Counties. Next they will probably start ticketing everyone for parking on 101 during peak traffic hours.

    July 26th, 2012 10:44 am

  6. Hector

    Make that 5 lanes into 2 if you count the northbound on-ramp from the San Marin/Atherton overpass. Glad I don’t do that commute any longer, it was hideous without the added lane. Also, funny how Novato got theirs done so fast and the Cotati Grade/RP changes have been going on what seems like forever. I know ours is a lot longer with more challenges but the Novato fix took only a year.

    July 26th, 2012 11:35 am

  7. Jim

    Fantastic! Now there will be another few miles worth of $50 million lanes THAT FEW PEOPLE USE!!! Traffic won’t change. The VAST majority of carpool lane users are soccer moms, not commuters. This is due to the awful economy and the varying hours of those who do commute southbound.

    Study after study show that carpool lanes do not reduce traffic or emissions yet the IDIOTS in government continue to build them. Make them standard lanes and then you’ll see a change in congestion.

    As for the Novato Narrows…that project has been paid for a few times over only to have the thieves in Sacramento waste the money elsewhere (or stash it elsewhere like the Parks Department was doing, all while begging for MORE money).

    It is stunning how stupid our elected leaders are. Wait, it is ridiculous that people keep re-electing them!

    July 26th, 2012 12:24 pm

  8. Total BS

    Couldn’t agree more; it’s the first thing that came to mind back when they started. So now this horrible bottleneck will turn into an absolute nightmare of a bottleneck?!?!?!?

    I can’t even begin to understand how this can be seen as anything other than a total disaster. Whether you’re carpooling or not, it makes no sense.

    July 26th, 2012 12:38 pm

  9. Krista

    I commute everyday from Santa Rosa to the southern most point of Novato and I have to say….. turning this extra lane into a CARPOOL lane only is such crap. Yes it is urging people to carpool to save gas/and emissions, but out of everyone that passes me on 101, only 1 out of 50 people meet the carpool requirements. NO ONE EVER CARPOOLS AT THESE TIMES OF DAY. #$%$^%&

    Bringing the narrows from 4-2 lanes in a distance of like 1/4 of a mile is the stupidest thing I have EVER heard.

    July 26th, 2012 1:58 pm

  10. Roger Stancliff

    why does Marin get a project done in under a year when ours take years here in Sonoma County!

    July 26th, 2012 3:11 pm

  11. Doug

    I agree, JC and JCB and all. The widening through Novato was touted as bringing relief to Novato residents through that section. But my first thought was that section, with its 3 lanes already, usually was no problem – only if it backed up from the narrows. The 4th lane will do nothing for Novato and will only make it worse for poor suckers travelling north. $50 million down the drain that could have been put toward widening to 3 lanes all the way.

    July 27th, 2012 9:44 am

  12. Total BS

    I know that Marin looks down at us poor lowly Sonoma County residents and how we crowd their precious BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes with our economy vehicles on 101, so to me, this is a great big …….. from Marin officials to us Sonoma County people.

    This may be uncalled for, but I personally think there’s a lot of truth behind it.

    July 27th, 2012 10:41 am

  13. Captain Obvious

    Not shockingly, and as anyone with any common sense has predicted, this project was a complete failure.

    Traffic is worse than it was before, and the carpool is used primarily by people who are NOT carpooling, thus creating even WORSE traffic for those people who choose not to break the law.

    I’m completely shocked that there has been literally NO police enforcement on people using the carpool lane. It’s no wonder people do it, no one cares.

    Thanks to everyone involved who took an extra 10 minutes away from me, EVERY DAY, from time I get to spend with my daughter and wife.

    Captain Obvious

    October 26th, 2012 10:17 am

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