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All 20 miles of I-15 Express Lanes now open

The San Diego region celebrated the completion of the last four miles of the Interstate 15 Express Lanes on Thursday, January 12, with the $1.3 billion, 20-mile stretch of expressway within the freeway set to open to the public on Tuesday, January 17.

“Today we dedicate a major piece of a modern new freeway system for San Diego County,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks. “Our goal at SANDAG is to build similar lanes on the freeway system throughout the region, creating a network of Express Lanes within the already existing freeway corridors, thereby giving the traveling public additional choices.” 

Built in the freeway median, the Express Lanes (two in each direction) extend from SR 163 in San Diego to SR 78 in Escondido, with transit stations and Park & Ride lots available along the route. The lanes are free for carpools, vanpools, buses, permitted clear-air vehicles, and motorcycles. They also are available for solo drivers who pay a toll via the FasTrak® electronic tolling system – with the funds going to support operations and pay for transit service in the corridor. 

“Until recently, average traffic delays along the corridor added upwards of 45 minutes to commute times,” said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Today’s opening marks an improvement for San Diego-area travelers in this vital corridor.”

In celebration of the project’s completion, SANDAG is offering special incentives to new FasTrak customers, carpools, vanpools, and Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Premium Express Bus riders to encourage them to take advantage of the Express Lanes. The promotions begin January 23 and are valid through March 11 or while quantities last. Details on each are as follows: 

- Solo drivers who open a FasTrak account will receive a $10 gift card sponsored by SDG&E®.
- Individuals who sign up with and track their carpool trips will receive a $10 gift card sponsored by SDG&E.
- Newly formed vanpools will receive $50 off the first month’s van lease.
- Commuters who try the MTS Premium Express Bus will receive a complimentary round-trip offer.

The I-15 Express Lanes are the first adaptable, high-tech transportation facility configured to meet diverse traveling needs. The facility features a movable barrier that allows Caltrans to make up to three lanes available to drivers during rush-hour in the peak direction. Direct Access Ramps enable buses and high-occupancy vehicles to enter the Express Lanes without yielding to traffic in the general purpose lanes.

A new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is expected to begin service on the I-15 Express Lanes starting in 2013. This high-frequency system will connect residential areas with major employment centers between downtown San Diego and Escondido. 

'This project helped put people to work and strengthened the economy in the San Diego area,' Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said. 'More lanes mean less congestion, so residents will spend less time in their cars and more time doing things they enjoy – and a year earlier than planned!'

The I-15 Express Lanes were built in three segments. The segment from SR 56 to Centre City Parkway opened in 2008, and the segment from SR 163 to SR 56 opened in 2011. The last leg and newest segment to open is from Centre City Parkway to SR 78. The cost of the three segments total approximately $1.3 billion.

Project Manager(s)

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or