Clean-air vehicles’ free tolls in express lanes are on the way out

Drivers of low- and zero-emission vehicles will soon have to pay to use express lanes on a congested stretch of highway in Santa Clara County, as other counties contemplate similar tolls.

The move to unclog traffic arteries that are supposed to zip and glide will begin on Highway 237, which snakes from Milpitas to the tech-campus-studded land of the Peninsula. Plug-in drivers who freely coast along that route may get a rude awakening next summer, when Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority extends the fast lanes from North First Street in San Jose to Mathilda Avenue in Sunnyvale — and charges clean-air cars a toll to use them.