Q I have watched the news regarding the light project on the Bay Bridge and cannot believe that Caltrans is actually on board with this. How big of a driver distraction is this going to be, and who is going to take responsibility for the accidents and slowdowns caused by drivers looking at the lights?
A Maybe no one. On March 5 the San Francisco end of the bridge will be illuminated with 25,000 white LED lights. The $8 million, privately funded project will be the largest sculpture of its kind in the world. Lights will flicker on and off and dim and brighten in waves and pulses on the 1.8-mile span between San Francisco and Treasure Island for two years.
But this should not distract drivers -- because they won't be able to see the lights. The lights will be placed on the north side of the cables and on the north side of the west span only and are designed to be visible only from the ground or on the water north of the bridge, and not to motorists on either deck.
Q Can you help explain why crews are cutting down lots of trees along Interstate 680's southbound lanes in San Ramon north of Crow Canyon Boulevard? The trees were a pleasant respite from the acreage of asphalt and cement that makes up the freeway, including the sound wall on the northbound lanes. I hope they aren't putting up a sound
A They will be. Caltrans is removing 300 trees so it can add auxiliary lanes between Sycamore Valley and Crow Canyon roads. But when work ends next year, 600 new trees and 1,000 new shrubs and ivy will be planted . The state says the extra trees should help hide the new southbound sound wall north of the Greenbrook overcrossing.
Q Hayward officials have alluded to "implementation within the month" of their one-way loop around downtown, but I cannot get more information and have seen no specific dates on their website. They are going to have massive gridlock and I don't want to be stuck in it. Can you please find out the whole scoop?
A The city doesn't yet have a time frame for completing the loop. Before it does, officials will conduct a major outreach to alert everyone.
Here is what will be done:
Foothill Boulevard will run northbound between Mission/Jackson and A streets. A Street will run westbound between Foothill and Mission. Mission will go southbound between A Street and Jackson Street.
And B Street will be converted from one-way westbound to two-way between Foothill and Second.
Q The traffic lights along Auto Mall Parkway near Pacific Commons in Fremont are timed terribly. You are guaranteed to stop at each one! Most go through a pedestrian sequence whether or not anyone needs it.
A There are four city signals on Auto Mall from Christy Street to Cushing Boulevard, plus two I-880 offramp signals adjacent to Pacific Commons controlled by Caltrans.
The four city signals are not coordinated with the two Caltrans signals, so it's understandable that you think signals are horribly timed. However, the city traffic signals are coordinated with each other for approximately six hours during the day (two hours each during the morning commute, a midday lunch peak and during the evening commute).
At all other times, the signals run in what is called a free mode -- no coordination, first come, first served. During these times, the signals are not coordinated.
Pacific Commons is a very large shopping center along the south side of Auto Mall, and this can lead to some very atypical lane utilization, as everyone wants to be in the lane that turns into Pacific Commons. This often leads to long lines of vehicles in one lane and almost no vehicles in adjacent lanes, making it difficult to time the signals.
But don't despair. The city is seeking funds to modify the signal controls to a new type of timing plan called adaptive coordination. This would provide coordination 24 hours a day but would adjust the time given based on changing traffic patterns.
Q I am horrified. They are cutting down the eucalyptus trees along Caribbean Drive in Sunnyvale. I drive that road every day and always enjoyed the tree-lined drive. Now it looks terrible. Ugly, to be precise. What is the city doing here?
A PG&E is removing the trees to keep areas around its natural gas pipelines free of vegetation so workers can maintain the pipes. But PG&E will replace the trees that were removed along Caribbean Drive with 58 ash and island pine trees. They'll be planted away from the existing pipeline. Go to www.pge.com/pipelineaccess for more information.
Q What is going on with the explosion of graffiti on Highway 85 between Highway 17 and Interstate 280? I drive each day to Palo Alto and in the last few weeks have noticed there is a lot more graffiti on the sound walls. Is this a result of state cutbacks or has there been in uptick in the amount of vandalism? ... Is anyone responsible for cleaning up the awful graffiti on Highway 85? It is really a distraction to drivers and very messy. ... Many sound walls and overpass columns along Highway 17 from Lark Avenue to 280 and along I-280 from Bird Avenue to the Highway 17 overcrossing have been hit with graffiti.
Ken Perrotti, Jacque Butler, Doug Felder and many more
A Caltrans and I both wish we had good answers to this blight. Yes, state cutbacks haven't helped, but this is more due to an upsurge in vandalism.
And here are some thoughts by Loui-the-Litter-Lady, whose merry band of volunteers clean I-280 once a month:
"I'm currently at war with the taggers that leave their mess all over the wall above the Leland Avenue onramp to 280. Last weekend I took photos and one shows the empty spraypaint cans found on the freeway below the tags. This does not show the tops for the spray cans which were also scattered along the roadway, or all the empty cans we could not reach up the slope, or the dozens more we assume are lying at the top of the slope that we could not climb up to retrieve.
"This activity really bothers me because the taggers seem so cavalier about it. All of the flat surfaces along 280 between Highway 87 and Saratoga Avenue have been hit at one time or another. This onramp wall seems to be a particularly favored spot. About once a month Caltrans sends out a crew to repaint and it lasts one to two days before the first tag is up.
"The support pillars, the underside of the overcrossings, the sound walls, and now there are those concrete barriers along the construction at the 880-17-280 interchange being tagged.
"I think some of this is because San Jose's graffiti cleanup crew is doing such a good job on city streets that the taggers have to go out on the freeway to find surfaces that won't get repainted too quickly."
If you see any taggers, call 911.