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HDR’s I-680 HOV Lane and Express Lane Conversion Featured in Roads & Bridges

New HOV Lane and Express Lane Supports Reduced Travel Time and Cost Savings

For some of the busiest highways in the United States, bottlenecks and congestion are inevitable — but that is no longer the case for a major north-south stretch of I-680 in California. Completed December 31, 2020, the $127 million I-680 HOV Lane Completion and Express Lane Conversion project was selected by Roads & Bridges magazine as the top North American road project in its annual Top 10 Roads awards. 

Roads & Bridges spoke with HDR’s project manager Sheena Patel, who shared how the team was able to leverage reduced traffic around work zones due to COVID-19 to safely speed up the project schedule. 

“The traffic on the freeway died down to almost nothing overnight,” Patel said. “And Caltrans allowed the contractor to extend lane closure hours, which helped accelerate the construction even further.”

The project added 3 miles of express lane and converted 8 miles of high occupancy vehicle lane on southbound I-680, and as a result, encouraged transit use and improved highway operations, as well as travel time reliability. More than 270,000 daily motorists now benefit from a 25-mile continuous express lane from Martinez to San Ramon.

I-680 Aerial | California

HDR was the prime consultant on the project providing preliminary engineering, environmental assessment and documentation, public outreach, right of way assistance, utility coordination, final design and design support during construction.  

A key component of the project’s success was genuine collaboration between the multi-discipline team. As the project began, the team proposed an advanced preliminary design approach that undertook activities concurrently for the project approval and environmental documentation process as well as development of the plans, specifications and estimate. It allowed detailed engineering to be developed for critical project components and reduced repeated revisions to the environmental technical studies while providing the necessary engineering and environmental resource constraint information. Success of this approach required frequent communication between the engineering and environmental teams to ensure that avoidance of environmental resources was front of mind as the project design developed.

The collaborative culture expanded as the project design moved deeper into design. Monthly corridor team meetings were held between HDR, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the toll system integrator and the civil construction manager to discuss issues and resolve them quickly with input from the various perspectives.  

An accelerated schedule and constant communication between project stakeholders reduced the risk of issues that could cause time and cost delays, leading to the project successfully opening $1.3 million under budget and a year ahead of schedule.

Read more in "The Express Lane," in the November/December 2021 issue of Roads & Bridges.