Q I heard that San Francisco is considering tearing down the north end of the Interstate 280 extension from 16th Street, including the ramps to 6th, Bryant and King streets. Are they insane?
This freeway is the main driving route to AT&T Park and the Warriors' future arena on the Embarcadero. In addition, it carries heavy traffic to new developments in the Mission Bay area such as UCSF, as well as commuters who live in that area and commute to South Bay jobs.
It also serves as a relief route to the Bay Bridge from Highway 101/I-80 (think Hospital Curve), particularly when that latter route has its frequent problems. Beyond that, the elimination of this portion of the I-280 route would force existing I-280 traffic onto the 101/80 route. Gridlock on 101/80! I am totally opposed to this crackpot idea!
A This idea came from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who wants to remove the old railroad yard in this area and run high-speed rail through here. But our reader has much more to say.
Q When there are problems on the 101/80 route I often use the 280 extension to get to the Bay Bridge from the Peninsula, and I deeply resent that San Francisco would consider eliminating a route that we all paid for through our gas tax. This freeway is a regional asset; more of us beyond just San Francisco residents should have a say.
We've heard this story before. When San Francisco eliminated the Embarcadero and Central freeways, the powers that be promised that the freeways would be replaced by elegant boulevards that would be very nearly as fast. Well, have you tried to get to/from the Embarcadero from 101/80? There's no good route other than the very 280 extension that San Francisco wants to eliminate! And every route takes much longer than the old Embarcadero Freeway.
A Don't go off the deep end on this. A lot of ideas get thrown out, and this one would likely take decades to move forward. Key questions: How hard is Mayor Lee going to push? Who else is going to help him push? And how much would this ease the path or cut costs for high-speed rail?
Q What will be the anticipated effect of the opening of the Caldecott Tunnel's fourth bore later this year?
A Conditions will improve the most for the non-commute direction of traffic, since there will now be two bores open each way all day. And the new bore will have wider lanes and shoulders, which will reduce delays when a stall or crash occurs there.
But ... and you knew a "but" was coming ... John-the MTC-Spokesman said "there will be zero impact on capacity for commuters traveling westbound in the morning, or eastbound in the afternoon." But he added: "There will be twice as much capacity available for those traveling in what was once considered the counter-commute direction."
Caltrans studies say the new bore will reduce delays within the vicinity of the tunnels for two decades, improve mobility for emergency crews and reduce the potential for congestion-related accidents at the queues that form at the tunnels' approaches.
Q We look forward to the completion of the new bore at the Caldecott Tunnel. But is that good enough? The everyday backup into the double tunnels during the morning and evening rush hours is agonizing.
East of the hills, population growth will continue, producing increased density at the tunnel. Mr. Roadshow, it's time to start planning a new tunnel midway between Highway 24 and Interstate 580. Such a project takes years to plan, gain financing and construct. That planning must start now! It's likely my bumper-to-bumper colleagues will agree with me.
A Years to plan? Try decades.
There were a couple of studies in the 1950s that showed a highway from the Montclair area of Oakland through a tunnel to Moraga and Alamo. But this route was long ago abandoned.
It would be extremely difficult to build another tunnel under existing environmental laws and the Contra Costa growth management plan, not to mention the cost. There have been studies to add carpool lanes between the tunnel and the 680/24 interchange, but the emphasis is on improving the traffic with smarter metering lights and more transit.