Q Gary, I'm often on your side, but I think you dropped the ball on the issue of no money to add an extra lane on southbound Interstate 280 in the Los Altos area. Saying that there are no plans to improve a problem spot is only part of the answer. The "why" is missing. Why are there no plans, not even long-term ones, to fix a known problem spot? Isn't that the function of government and government agencies, to figure out what problems are and fix them?
A Yes, but as bad as this problem is on 280, fixing it falls way down on the priority list. First, a little perspective.
For the past three decades, most pressing state highway projects have been funded by countywide transportation taxes, and in Santa Clara County, those funds are drying up for road improvements. County voters approved a 10-year measure in 1984 that widened 101 and 237 and built Highway 85 from South San Jose to I-280. Then in 1996, a nine-year measure was approved and helped to pay for new interchanges at 85-101 in Mountain View, 237-880 in Milpitas and extra lanes on Highway 17, plus a few other areas.
In 2000, voters again dug into their pockets and approved a 30-year tax to bring BART to the South Bay and other transit-only projects. The BART extension could open in four years.
Voters also approved a huge state bond measure in 2006 that has helped cover the costs of new interchanges at Capitol Expressway-101, Tully-101 and 280-880 by Valley Fair, plus carpool and merging lanes coming on 101 in Mountain View and on 880 between 101 and 237.
Studies are under way to address the next list of priorities, which are: widening 101 to add a second exit lane onto Highway 87, rebuilding the 85-237 interchange and widening 101 between Gilroy and Highway 25. They will be worked on when money is available.
Bottom line: A ton of road work has been done over the past few decades, but more money is not on the horizon. I hope your pleas and my writing about the 280 problems move that project higher on the wish list, but I am not optimistic.
Q The only real way to solve this issue on 280 is to have congestion pricing for all carpool lanes. Use the cash generated to solve transportation congestion issues.
A That's the plan. Carpool lanes will be turned into toll lanes on 85 and 101 in a few years. Converting the I-280 carpool lanes into toll lanes is also on the wish list, but it will be years before that happens.
Q I understand that improvements are on the way for the Capitol Expressway-101 nightmare. So is there a reason the northbound carpool lane onto 101 from East Capitol is partially blocked? Is this going to last a while?
Tyler Folck, Henry Nguyen and other upset carpoolers
A Yes and yes. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority says the carpool lane is closed so that barriers can be installed to provide a safety zone for construction workers. To make this more obvious, yellow flexible poles called channelizers will be installed to clearly mark that this lane is closed and that drivers need to line up in the one remaining onramp lane. This arrangement is likely to be in place for some time, as construction on the new interchange will last at least a couple of years.
Q If there truly are no plans to widen the Brokaw Road bridge over the creek to provide three westbound lanes, there will continue to be morning backups as far back as Lundy as motorists traveling to south I-880 avoid the No. 1 lane that only goes as far as the left-turn lane to northbound I-880.
A That is my fear as well. Hopefully re-timing the traffic lights will ease delays where Brokaw goes from three to two lanes westbound.
Q What the heck is going on with the Mathilda Avenue bridge near the Caltrain tracks? Several southbound lanes were closed last Friday and they've roughed up pavement in both directions.
A Sunnyvale is grinding the surface, sealing cracks and repaving Mathilda from Washington to California Avenues.