FAQ

 

What are the I-15 Express Lanes?

The award-winning I-15 Express Lanes system is the nation’s most advanced and innovative highway. It provides a flexible, four-lane “expressway within a freeway” that can be managed by expanding or contracting based on traffic flow. Brought to you by SANDAG and Caltrans, the I-15 Express Lanes are designed to offer multiple choices for commuters and were created to provide carpools, vanpools, zero-emission vehicles with an approved Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California DMV, motorcycles, MTS Premium Express Bus, and FasTrak customers with a smoother, quicker, and more reliable trip along the busy I-15 corridor. The Express Lanes also help ease demand on the general purpose lanes, benefiting all commuters and contributing to a “greener” community as commuters realize both the environmental and economic benefits of ridesharing and public transit. The Express Lanes total 20 miles of congestion-free travel and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They stretch from SR 163 to SR 78.

What makes the Express Lanes unique?

The I-15 Express Lanes are an example of a revolutionary, forward-thinking design that serves transportation purposes today, while laying the groundwork for the needs and technology of tomorrow. Fashioned with a barrier separating the Express Lanes from the general purpose lanes, the design allows for the addition of potential new technology, including future traffic management and new communication technology installed in vehicles, enabling them to communicate with roadway systems. A movable barrier separates the northbound and southbound Express Lanes, allowing operators to expand or contract the number of lanes to manage congestion and handle major incidents, special events, and related traffic management needs. The new design provides maximum flexibility to meet both the region’s current needs and to accommodate future growth and capacity.

How do I use the Express Lanes?

Carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, and zero-emission vehicles with an approved Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California DMV can use the Express Lanes for free. Solo drivers with a valid FasTrak account and a FasTrak transponder can choose to pay a toll to use the lanes. The I-15 Express Lanes provide maximum flexibility and quickly take users where they need to go. The Express Lanes offer more than 20 access points to and from the general purpose lanes in each direction as well as four direct access ramps from transit stations along I-15 for your convenience (there will be a total of five in 2014 with the opening of the Mira Mesa direct access ramp and adjacent Miramar College Transit Station). Electronic tolling signs provide information on FasTrak toll rates as well as the estimated length of time it will take to get to various locations. There are also smaller signs along the Express Lanes that let users know when they should exit the Express Lanes in order to get to their desired destination.

How much does it cost to travel on the Express Lanes?

Carpools, vanpools, transit riders, motorcycles, and zero-emission vehicles with an approved Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California DMV may travel on the Express Lanes for free—no preregistration or transponder is required, just enter the lanes and go!

For solo drivers with a prepaid FasTrak account, a distance-based dynamic pricing system is used. The toll is based on rate per mile at the time the lanes are entered and the total distance traveled. Every three minutes, the system recalculates the per-mile toll rate based on the level of traffic in the Express Lanes, ensuring traffic flows freely in the lanes. The toll rate you see on the signs located just before each entrance to the Express Lanes shows the minimum toll you will pay if you enter the facility, as well as the maximum toll should you choose to travel to the end of the Express Lanes. The signs also advise you of one or more possible fares for shorter trips to upcoming freeway interchanges, such as SR 56.

Are there tollbooths on the Express Lanes?

No. The FasTrak toll collection system in use on the Express Lanes is fully electronic. There are no tollbooths or traffic gates and no slowing or stopping to pay a toll. Solo drivers who want to use the Express Lanes must first open a prepaid FasTrak account and mount a small FasTrak transponder on the inside of their windshield. The electronic system reads the transponder each time the customer chooses to use the Express Lanes and automatically deducts the correct toll from the customer’s prepaid FasTrak account.

Where can I enter the I-15 Express Lanes?

You may enter the Express Lanes at any one of the numerous entry points along the facility, which includes more than 20 direct access points to and from the general purpose lanes in each direction as well as four direct access ramps from transit stations along I-15 for your convenience (there will be a total of five in 2014 with the opening of the Mira Mesa direct access ramp and adjacent Miramar College Transit Station). Just look for signs that direct you to the various access points. It is easy to navigate in and out of the lanes to reach your desired freeway exit/destination.

What times are the I-15 Express Lanes open?

The I-15 Express Lanes are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in both directions.

I saw a sign on the Express Lanes that said “HOV ONLY” instead of a toll rate. What should a FasTrak driver do if they see this?

If you are a FasTrak customer and you see the message “HOV ONLY” displayed on the overhead electronic toll message signs, do not enter the Express Lanes as a solo driver. That message is only displayed when traffic in the Express Lanes is congested and no excess capacity is available for solo drivers. If you are in the Express Lanes when the message appears, you are allowed to stay in the lanes at the rate that was posted when you entered—you do not need to exit the lanes. If you enter after the “HOV ONLY” message is displayed on the electronic signs on the Express Lanes or at the transit stations, you could be assessed a fine and you will be charged the maximum fare, currently $8.00.

The Express Lanes’ electronic toll signs display travel times to the next interchange. What does that mean?

The travel times displayed on electronic toll signs are for the Express Lanes travel times. Customers asked for this type of information to ensure they are receiving value in return for paying the toll to use those lanes. Travel times for the general purpose lanes are displayed on other message signs in the I-15 corridor.

Can large trucks use the I-15 Express Lanes?

Only light trucks and sport-utility vehicles are allowed on the Express Lanes. Under California law, commercial trucks with more than two axles are not allowed on the Express Lanes.

Can I tow my trailer or boat on the I-15 Express Lanes?

No. Trailers and boats are not allowed on the Express Lanes.

Can I drive my hybrid or zero-emission vehicle on the I-15 Express Lanes for free?

Only zero-emission vehicles displaying the approved Clean Air Vehicle Sticker issued by the California DMV are allowed to travel in the Express Lanes for free with a solo driver. If you drive a hybrid vehicle, the only way to ride in the Express Lanes for free is if there are two or more people in your vehicle. The California Department of Motor Vehicles Hybrid Clean Air Vehicle Decal Program ended July 1, 2011. Owners of hybrid clean air vehicles displaying yellow Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decals are no longer allowed to operate their vehicle in a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane unless the minimum passenger requirements are met. After July 1, 2011, use of an HOV lane without the minimum required passengers may subject the driver to a citation.

What is that large work vehicle moving the barrier on the Express Lanes?

That is the Barrier Transfer Machine (BTM). You may have seen the BTM on the I-15 Express Lanes. Ultimately, the BTM will be used to reconfigure the Express Lanes from two lanes in each direction to three lanes in one direction and one lane in another direction to manage traffic flow during peak traffic hours. As of now, the traffic volumes have not triggered the need to use the BTM on a daily basis. Caltrans is moving the BTM on an as-needed basis to maintain its operability, as well as when there are incidents or emergencies. While the BTM is designed for using during normal traffic flows, you may notice small traffic impacts when it is operating. Additionally, you may also notice messages on the electronic signs that will alert you to be on the lookout when the BTM is in use.

How does the bus system work on the I-15 Express Lanes?

The MTS Premium Express Bus service currently offers six bus routes that use the I-15 Express Lanes to transport riders from North County locations to their destinations in downtown San Diego and Sorrento Mesa. Transit stations and Park & Ride lots are located along I-15 and are connected to the Express Lanes via direct access ramps. These direct access ramps allow the MTS Premium Express Bus and other Express Lanes users to bypass general lanes and enter directly onto the Express Lanes. Express Bus riders, carpoolers, and vanpoolers can take advantage of additional parking within the transit stations at Sabre Springs/Peñasquitos, Rancho Bernardo, and Del Lago stations, with an additional transit center opening in 2014 at Mira Mesa Boulevard.

Additionally, a new network of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes will launch in 2013. Comfortable new buses will be boarded at the four transit stations adjacent to the Express Lanes, as well as a new station to open in 2014 (Miramar College transit station) near Mira Mesa Blvd., and at two additional BRT stations along I-15 in the Mid-City area at El Cajon Blvd. and University Ave. Visit 511sd.com/iCommute for more details.

What was the reason for constructing the I-15 Express Lanes?

The average daily traffic on I-15 ranges from 170,000 to 295,000 vehicles, with daily commute delays ranging from 30 to 45 minutes in the general purpose lanes. By 2020, traffic is expected to increase to almost 380,000 vehicles per day. Delays were expected to be as long as 90 minutes if improvements were not made. The I-15 FasTrak program successfully demonstrates that value pricing can be an effective tool for increasing the use of an HOV facility while maintaining free-flow conditions in the facility. SANDAG is committed to delivering on the TransNet promise and improving the quality of life for San Diegans. The I-15 Express Lanes system is the nation’s most advanced and innovative highway, providing a smarter way to commute as well as saving time, gas, and helping the environment.

What is SANDAG?

SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) is the San Diego region’s primary public planning, transportation, and research agency, providing the public forum for regional policy decisions about growth, transportation planning and construction, environmental management, housing, open space, energy, public safety, and national topics. SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members, and county supervisors from each of the region’s 19 local governments. Supplementing these voting members are advisory representatives from Imperial County, the U.S. Department of Defense, Caltrans, San Diego Unified Port District, Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District, San Diego County Water Authority, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, and Mexico. The Board of Directors is assisted by a professional staff of planners, engineers, and research specialists. More information is available on the SANDAG Web site at www.sandag.org.

How was construction of the I-15 Express Lanes funded?

The project cost $1.4 billion and was funded in part by TransNet, a half cent sales tax approved by San Diego region’s voters in 2004, and other state and federal funds.

 

What is FasTrak?

FasTrak is a registered trademark of the Transportation Corridor Agencies and is the standard for electronic toll collection in the state of California. You can use your FasTrak transponder on all toll roads and bridges statewide,

I-15 Express Lanes: To participate, solo drivers must have a prepaid FasTrak account and transponder properly installed on their windshield when they use the Express Lanes. Carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, and permitted zero-emission vehicles can use the lanes at no charge. Remember, if you are driving with two or more people and you have a FasTrak transponder in your vehicle, place it in the Mylar® bag that was provided to you when you signed up for your account so you don’t get charged for your trip. Carpoolers drive for free on the I-15 Express Lanes.

South Bay Expressway: FasTrak is the fast, easy automatic way to pay your tolls on South Bay Expressway. With FasTrak, you bypass toll plazas - no slowing or stopping to pay. Drivers without a FasTrak  account also have the option of paying South Bay Expressway tolls with exact changes or a credit/debit card at toll booths. There are no discounts or reduced tolls for carpoolers.

How does the FasTrak electronic toll collection system work?

A FasTrak transponder is a small radio device that is mounted inside the vehicle on the windshield. It identifies the customer's prepaid toll account. Overhead antennas in the I-15 Express Lanes and South Bay Expressway read the transponder and deduct the correct toll electronically from the customer's prepaid FasTrak account.

Where is the toll rate posted?

I-15 Express Lanes: Electronic signs show the minimum and maximum tolls a driver can pay. These signs are located in advance of every I-15 Express Lanes entrance and at the transit stations along the corridor. For more information on I-15 Express Lanes tolls click here.

South Bay Expressway: South Bay Expressway toll rates can be found on signs at toll booths at entrances/exits along the facility. Click here for more information on South Bay Expressway tolls.

How do I sign up for FasTrak?

I-15 Express Lanes: Click here to open at I-15 Express Lanes FasTrak account online. You also can visit the I-15 Express Lanes Customer Service Center or call (888) 889-1515.

South Bay Expressway: Click here to open a South Bay Expressway FasTrak account online. You also can visit the South Bay Expressway Customer Service Center or mail in an application.

 

How do I install the transponder on my vehicle?

A transponder should be mounted inside the car squarely on the top-middle section of the windshield directly behind the rearview mirror. It should be no more than one inch from the windshield’s top edge, below any dark shaded tint. If your vehicle does not permit the placement of the transponder in that location, mount the transponder in the lower left or right corner of the windshield no more than one inch from the lower and outer edges. According to Article 13, Section 23302 of the Vehicle Code, you are responsible for mounting your transponder properly. Please note that if mounted incorrectly, the transponder may not work and you could be subject to citation.

If I carpool how do I avoid getting charged a toll?

I-15 Express Lanes: If you rideshare with two or more people in your car while driving on the I-15 Express Lanes, please remove the transponder from your windshield and place it in the Mylar bag that was provided with your transponder. This will prevent your transponder from being read by the FasTrak tolling system and will ensure you aren't charged the toll.
South Bay Expressway: All drivers must pay to drive the South Bay Expressway. There are no carpool discounts.

Can my FasTrak transponder be moved between vehicles?

Yes. You must provide us with the license plate number, state, make, and model of all vehicles using the FasTrak transponder. If your primary vehicle changes, you must update your vehicle information. Visit www.511sd.com/fastrak, or call 511 and say “FasTrak” to talk to a Customer Service Representative. We recommend that you sign up for a FasTrak transponder for each vehicle that you drive on a regular basis as a FasTrak customer.

What happens if my transponder is lost or stolen?

Please notify us immediately if your transponder is lost or stolen. Your only liability is your transponder cost of $40 and any tolls charged to your account prior to notification. Call 511 and say “FasTrak.”

How long does the battery last?

The warranty for the battery is five years. Several factors, including prolonged direct exposure to the sun, can affect the life of the transponder. The fastest way for you to obtain a new transponder if your battery dies is to visit the Customer Service Center. Call 511 and say “FasTrak” to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

Does it work for all carpool lanes or just FasTrak lanes?

Your transponder only allows you to pay for the use of the I-15 Express Lanes or any other toll roads and bridges in California that use the FasTrak system. In San Diego County, the only other FasTrak toll road currently is the South Bay Expressway (www.SouthBayExpressway.com). Your FasTrak transponder does not give you access to any other type of carpool lane.

Will it work on freeway on-ramps?

No. Your transponder only allows you to pay for the use of the Express Lanes. Your FasTrak transponder does not give you access to any other type of carpool lane.

Does it work out of state?

No, but it does work on any FasTrak toll road or bridge in California.

My transponder isn’t beeping. Is it not working?

Your transponder will not beep on the I-15 Express Lanes. If there is a problem with your transponder, the Customer Service Center will notify you.

Can I change the battery in it?

No. If you open the transponder for any reason, you will void the warranty and you will be charged $40 for the value of the transponder.

 

How will I be billed?

You must maintain a prepaid account with a minimum of a $10 balance and a credit card on file. The account will be automatically replenished in the amount of $40 per transponder each time it goes down to $10. Monthly account and transponder fees will be deducted automatically from your account balance following the end of the month (where applicable).

       Fee Schedule

 

I-15 Express Lanes

 

South Bay Expressway 

Minimum Monthly in Tolls (One Transponder Included)

$4.50

 

 $4.50

Minimum Monthly in Tolls for Each Additional Transponder

$1.00

 

 $1.00

Request Extra Printed Statement
(e.g., Monthly or Annual Statement Request)

$2.00

 

 $2.00

 Automatic Quarterly Printed Statement
(Opt in Required)

N/A

 

 $2.00

Returned Check/Declined Credit/Insufficient Funds

$15.00

 

 $25.00

Account Negative Balance/Account Suspension Fee

$15.00

 

 $25.00

Collections Fee

$20.00

 

 $75.00

Damages/Lost or Stolen Transponder Replacement

$40.00

 

 $35.00/$50.00

Transaction Fee for License Plate Image-based Transactions

 N/A

 

 $2.00

Will I receive statements?

With the online account management system, you will be given options for when you would like to have your monthly statement e-mailed to you. You also can view monthly statements online at any time. If you don’t use the online account management system, you will continue to receive a printed quarterly statement. There is a $2.00 cost per printed statement charged to your account. To register online, make sure the Customer Service Center has your e-mail address on file and then visit www.511sd.com/fastrak.