Hey southbound Highway 101 commuters. Notice anything different on Tuesday as you drove through central Novato?
Why, yes, that's an extra lane open. Surprise! Glad you noticed.
Gift-wrapped by Caltrans and its Ghilotti Bros. Construction, the high-occupancy vehicle lane was opened overnight between Novato Creek and Highway 37 as part of the first phase of the massive Marin Sonoma Narrows Project.
The California Highway Patrol said construction crews were finishing some paving and lane striping Monday night to get the lanes open for the morning rush hour.
The job was done on schedule and within the budget, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said.
Meanwhile, northbound commuters have a little while longer to wait for your new lane. It's scheduled to open 16 days hence, on Aug. 9, partly because the new lane will be double as long (3.2 miles northbound vs. 1.6 miles southbound).
A two-year, $50 million Caltrans project to extend carpool lanes through Novato broke ground July 14, 2011, and is expected to reduce driver frustration, vehicle congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. The HOV lanes will be part of a continuous lane between Novato and Mill Valley.
The next phase of the project is further north where the serious bottlenecks take place daily. Widening the road between Novato and Petaluma is scheduled to start later this year, bringing relief to those routinely stuck before and after the Atherton Avenue exit.
Of the $50 million for the first phase, $31 million comes from Proposition 1B, approved by voters in 2006 for transportation projects, Caltrans said.