Q Gary, any idea why traffic on the San Mateo Bridge has become so bad? Normally, once you get on the bridge, traffic is flowing. But in the past five to six months, the bridge is bogged down for no particular reason, often along the entire stretch. Some traffic reporter said that this was what it was like in the '90s. I'm not sure what he was referring to. Any ideas what is going on?
A First, a reminder that traffic will be nonexistent this weekend and next, as the bridge will be closed for road repairs. Take either the Dumbarton Bridge or the Bay Bridge to cross the bay.
Randy's complaint is being heard across the region on almost all roadways. In the '90s, the San Mateo Bridge was only two lanes wide in each direction with no shoulders. Today it's three lanes each way, with shoulder space for disabled cars, and until recently complaints like yours have been few. But as the economy improves, traffic jams are more frequent -- on bridges, state highways and county expressways. Highway 101 is jammed at the 92 interchange on the Peninsula, and I-880 is jammed in the East Bay. No surprise then that the crossing from 880 to 101 via the San Mateo Bridge is also jammed.
Q So are they planning on putting in a new community swimming pool on the corner of Isabel and Stanley roads in Livermore? What's with the gigantic hole as Highway 84 turns right onto Stanley Boulevard?
A The excavation is for what is called an "Austin vault sand filter," a swimming pool-sized structure that collects water runoff and runs it through filters like sand, gravel and rock. The water is then discharged and filtered to improve water quality by removing solids and sediments.
This is part of the Highway 84 widening project. Caltrans has built an identical system along I-80 east of Crockett and west of the Carquinez Bridge toll plaza.
Q Are they trying to make the road work on Stanley Boulevard between Livermore and Pleasanton the longest-running construction project in Alameda County? Why is it that I seldom see any work being done? What is the north side of the road going to look like? Right now I see benches looking at the gravel plants and I see more weeds now than before they started. Some poles have been removed, others still remain. What gives?
A The county ran into a snag, as it had to wait for utility companies to remove their poles so that the contractor could complete its work. If the weather remains dry, everything should wrap up soon. The north side will have bicycle lanes and landscaping to screen the view of the quarries.
Q I was one of the people who wrote to complain about the Oakland Airport cellphone parking lot. I am sending you this message from the new and improved lot, which just opened recently. It's still a tiny bit narrow, but it is definitely a massive improvement over the previous lot. One of the improvements I like best is that there is now a loop in the lot so you can circle if you need to wait for space. Please pass along my sincere thanks to airport officials for making this change so quickly.
A Consider it done.
Q I live in unincorporated Hayward and have to drive up and down Meekland Avenue regularly. However, I can't begin to tell you the last time this stretch of two-lane road from Lewelling Boulevard in San Lorenzo to A Street in Hayward was paved. This is one of the main roads through the area, but it's gotten real bad and the county does nothing but minor patchwork. As soon as it gets a lot of traffic over the area, it's even worse then before they patched it.
A Hang tough for a spell. Repaving is planned next year, along with sidewalk improvements on Meekland.
Q As a transportation geek, I love your column. I have a question about the Rengstorff/Charleston-101 interchange, which is possibly the most dangerous I have ever driven through. I feel I have some authority on bad intersections, as I've lived in Dallas, D.C., Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Berkeley, New York, Los Angeles and several locations in Asia (well, OK, the on/offramps to Third Ring Road at Liangmaqiao Lu in Beijing are horribly designed, but I digress).
The onramp from Charleston Road to 101 south is particularly terrifying, given the crossing traffic from Rengstorff (that often doesn't stop), the sharp turn and the immediate exit ramp to Rengstorff northbound. That only leads to more terror. I've begun avoiding this intersection altogether and instead go down to Old Middlefield Road.
Please tell me that Caltrans is redoing this intersection as part of the current 101 project. Thoughts? Info? Some hope?
A And ...
Q There's a super-dangerous short merge from Charleston Road onto 101, maybe 50 feet ending immediately in the next exit's offramp. You have about one second to merge while other drivers are trying to exit into the same space. Any chance you could highlight this issue in the paper?
Manish Vij, Min Ho and others
A While there are no big plans to rebuild this 1950s-style interchange, there is some hope. A portion of the outside shoulder behind the concrete barrier and the crash cushions will be removed shortly and replaced with markings to provide drivers with more space to negotiate crossing traffic. The contractor will also relocate the K-rails from both directions to the median in about three weeks.
Work on adding merging lanes and a second carpool lane on 101 through here will end next summer.
Q Could a metering light be added at Charleston Road to south 101?
A No, says Bernie-the-Caltrans-Man: "The onramp to southbound 101 at Charleston Road, at its current geometry, has no available storage, and high demands during the afternoon peak period don't make it ideal to be metered. Under the current construction project, there are no plans to install metering at this onramp."
Q I live near the corner of West Alma Avenue and Almaden in San Jose. Ever since the new Rocketship school has opened, there are parents and young children running across Alma where there is no crosswalk. Are there plans to add a crosswalk in front of the school or at the Little Orchard? The current situation seems very dangerous.
A Yes. In a few weeks the school will be installing a crosswalk on the east leg of Alma and Almaden, and at Little Orchard at Alma. This will require changing the existing signal at Almaden, installing ramps and adding pedestrian signals and push buttons.
Q I'm sure Caltrans gets mostly lemons, but here's a bouquet: The crossing over the railroad tracks on Hamilton Avenue in Campbell nearly tore my car apart each time I traveled there. But lo and behold! It has become a joy to drive, and, I presume, thanks to Caltrans! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A I'm redirecting your bouquet to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which oversaw the smoothing out of these nasty bumps.