Vehicles with at least three occupants traveling Solano County freeways soon may have a lane of their own, a perk already available in other Bay Area counties.

The Solano Transportation Authority wants public comment on its HOV - high-occupancy vehicle - project to create eastbound and westbound carpool lanes along eight miles of Interstate 80.

"Incrementally we're starting to move forward on this HOV system," said STA Executive Director Daryl Halls. "This will be the first segment."

The lanes would extend through a widened I-80 median from Red Top Road to just east of Air Base Parkway in Fairfield, and be the first phase of what transportation officials hope will eventually create HOV lanes from Vacaville west across the county.

"There's been an overall strategy to move the HOV system along the 80 corridor," Halls said.

Engineering and final designs will be the next steps, and construction of the lanes is scheduled to begin by 2009.

The purpose of the project - which is being co-sponsored by STA, the California Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration - is to help reduce delays on the highway by encouraging carpooling to reduce traffic.

"We have some of the longest commutes in the region," Halls said. "You want to provide incentive for people to take the bus and carpool."

Providing HOV lanes, which may get commuters across the county 30 minutes faster during heavy traffic, is plenty of incentive, he added.

Like many transportation projects, the challenge will be to secure funding.

STA estimates the project will cost $80.6 million. While $60.6 million has been secured through a recent ballot measure, the agency seeks the remaining $20 million through regional sources.

In the meantime, the agency is beginning studies on other potential HOV lane projects in Solano. Securing funding for HOV projects is among STA's priorities for State Transportation Improvement Project funding.

STA recommends a regional HOV system to complement planned transit improvements and serve future bus, train, carpool and vanpool users.

"For the (Interstate) 80 corridor, one of the key conclusions is that we really should plan for, and fund, HOV lanes," Halls said.

The initial study of the HOV lanes project can be viewed online at

Comments and requests for public hearings can be submitted until 5 p.m. Feb. 1 to, 424-6075, fax 424-6074 or mail to Janet Adams, Director of Projects, STA-I-80 HOV Lanes Project, One Harbor Center, Suite 130, Suisun City, 94585.

Erin Pursell can be reached at