Q One of the things reported by the Merc is the fact that drivers can now show officers "electronic" versions of their car documents. Could you clarify this? Can I have a picture of my registration stored on my smartphone and show that if stopped? How about proof of insurance?

Luther Abel

Alameda

A Yes to both. Drivers now have the option of providing proof of insurance and registration on an electronic device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), when requested by police. In other words, you no longer have to keep a paper copy in your vehicle as long as you can show an officer electronic proof of that document. Said Art-the-CHP-Man: "Pretty cool, no?"

Q Is there any future plan to widen Highway 101 through Santa Clara? Central Expressway runs parallel to 101. Is there any plan to upgrade the expressway to reduce the load on 101?

Justin Li

San Jose

A There are plans to widen Central from four to six lanes between San Tomas and Lawrence expressways and add auxiliary lanes between entrances and exits west of there. There are also plans to convert the carpool lane on 101 into an express or toll lane and possibly add a second carpool lane in some stretches. Also in the planning: a second exit-only lane on southbound 101 between De La Cruz Boulevard and Highway 87, and numerous interchange improvements, especially at Montague Expressway.

When? Good question. Depends on the flow of money. Go to www.vta.org/vtp/index.html for a list of future highway projects in Santa Clara County and www.expressways.info for more details on expressway plans.

Q I drive from the Monterey area into Santa Cruz every day. Can you tell me how the work on adding merging lanes on Highway 1 at Soquel Avenue is progressing? Traffic consistently slows to a crawl through there.

Denise H.

A Widening the southbound lane will start this week. Crews will first grind off the existing pavement and excavate the road. Widening the northbound lane will start once the retaining wall currently under construction is completed. Work could end this summer.

Q The Almaden Expressway exit from north Highway 85 has become very dangerous, as offramp traffic often backs up significantly onto 85. It started becoming a real problem with the recent opening of Wal-Mart and it has been getting noticeably worse since.

The problem could be relieved some by re-striping the right side of the offramp to extend the right-hand lane and allow more cars to queue up there, rather than being backed up onto the freeway. I've twice seen officers citing drivers who cheat on the shoulder and pass on the right. If that lane were extended by just re-striping, there would be fewer drivers stuck on the freeway.

Tim Hyde

San Jose

A Alas, no. Caltrans says the ramp is not wide enough to add another lane or extend it. But the state will be checking its signal lights to determine whether any adjustments in timing could help the situation. Another option is what Tim does: At the first sign of stopped cars on the ramp, he stays on 85 to Camden and backtracks from there.

Q You once had a question about Coalinga and it had me wondering how many people ever thought about the origin of that unusual town name.

Frank Dalton

Menlo Park

A Back when the railroad was king, locomotives were powered by burning coal obtained from the northern foothills of Mount Diablo. The Southern Pacific Transportation Company established the site as a coaling station in 1888, and it was called simply Coaling Station A.

There is some debate about exactly how it happened, but one story goes that an official of Southern Pacific added an "a" to it and -- bingo -- Coalinga.

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