Q I have not seen any summary of traffic fatalities for last year. Can you uncover the number of motorist, bicyclist and pedestrian deaths in our area? Has that number increased or decreased?
A Traffic deaths fell in the Bay Area from 158 in 2011 to 133 last year. But data nationwide and statewide shows an increase.
The U.S. data projects a 7.1 percent jump in the first nine months of 2012 compared to the first nine months of 2011, when deaths reached a 60-year low.
While this is troubling, last year's deaths were still expected to be about 25 percent lower than the recent high of 45,520 in 2005. Safety officials attribute the rise last year partly to a warm winter in the first quarter of 2012, which led to more driving.
Statewide, deaths are also on the increase. The California figures:
Q Two issues have been bugging me for a couple of years. The center median of Interstate 280 from Brotherhood Way in San Francisco to Page Mill Road in Palo Alto is a mess. Tons of garbage, tires, plastic bags, you name it. I bet lots of garbage is going into the drains to the bay. Can you get Caltrans to clean this mess? It's a shame on such a scenic drive.
The second issue is the Page Mill-280 northbound onramp, which is filled with several large potholes getting worse every year. Can someone take a look at this?
A Good news on both accounts. Caltrans sweepers will be out this week to clean up 280 in San Mateo County, and pothole repairs are also planned this week at the Page Mill ramp. A paving job is slated for this summer.
Q I've been observing a lot of people being pulled over in the morning at the Highway 101 offramp to Shoreline Boulevard. What citation are they receiving?
A This is a favorite spot for Mountain View police to patrol. Officers are enforcing the turn-only lanes from the northbound 101 ramp to Shoreline. The two right-hand lanes must turn right and the two left-hand lanes must turn left.
But during the morning commute, many drivers use this offramp to go straight across Shoreline and get back on 101, bypassing a half-mile backup.
Police enforce this by standing on the onramp on the other side of the intersection. By the time violators see them, there is no going back. Police work this intersection several times a week and once issued 76 tickets in a two-hour period.
Said Greg-the-Traffic-Cop: "There are no warnings given here and everyone we stop gets a ticket" -- which can cost around $275 a pop.
Q I am confused about another shortcut that I see people taking from south Shoreline to south 85 or south 101, where one often has to wait in another long line of cars in the exit lane to the freeway. If you don't want to wait in line it seems OK to stay one lane to the left, go to the light and make a right turn, avoiding the long line. Is this a legal move?
A Sure is, says Officer Greg: "There is a dedicated onramp entrance lane as you travel south over 101, but there is nothing to restrict right turns at the light from the No. 2 lane beyond where the dedicated entrance lane terminates. Of course, these turns must be made legally by stopping first on a red and yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk."
Q I was driving on northbound El Camino Real in Menlo Park last month and noticed that there were temporary lane markers and new pavement. In the past, part of that stretch had only two traffic lanes, with the curb lane reserved for parking and right-turn pockets. With the new pavement and lack of striping, it isn't clear how to handle the curb lane. Most drivers stay out of it, but I saw a couple cars trying to drive in it, only to dive back into the middle lane when they got to a parked car.
I drove that same stretch the other day, and there was still no striping. When is Caltrans going to stripe that section of road?
A This week or next, or as soon as nighttime temperatures stay above 45 or 50 degrees. Below that, it is too cold to put the thermal plastic down, as it won't stick to the pavement.