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SAN JOSE, CA-The Valley Transportation Authority plans to begin widening Interstate 880 near Brokaw Road in late June 2001, and will begin again a month later on Highway 101 outside of Morgan Hill. Much of the work will be done in the median, causing fewer and less severe traffic disruptions. The widening of I-880 will be completed in 2003. Work on Highway 101 will be completed a year later.

While the VTA is confident that the I-880 widening will start on time, they say the 101 project could be delayed if environmentalists file suit to limit the widening to no more than three lanes each way. The Valley Transportation wants to add carpool lanes, widening the road to eight lanes. A crushing blow to the widening plans was the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes that prompted then-Governor Pete Wilson to take money away from the highway construction to seismically retrofit bridges statewide.

According to a source with Caltrans, the agency gets more complaints regarding those two roads than any other in the Bay Area. “People drive down Morgan Hill and see all that space just sitting there along 101 and 880 and that’s just awful.”

The $100 million-plus projects come nearly six months ahead of original plans to being work, but nearly five years after voters approved a sales tax increase to pay for the extra, and overdue, lanes. A portion of the project fee will come from the approved sales tax while the remaining will come from state funds.

Traffic delays have surged 91% this year on 101, an unheard of one-year increase. And I-880 at Montague Expressway ranks as the fourth most congested Bay Area stretch of freeway, jumping from No. 41 only two years ago.

Although long-range forecasts predict congestion will increase despite adding more lanes, the improvements should ease some commuter frustration. Drivers will save up to 18 minutes making the southbound trek on I-880 in the afternoon, while speeds will rise from a mere 9 mph now to 51 mph and drivers on 101 will save anywhere from seven to 15 minutes a day each way, with speeds ranging from an average of 40 to 60 mph.

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