Q Gary, apropos of the uproar about tearing down Interstate 280 north of Highway 101 in San Francisco: Is it time to bring back the idea of the Southern Crossing, a new bridge going from I-380 near the San Francisco airport to Alameda in order to reduce the amount of East Bay traffic going to San Francisco? I believe this was first suggested in the '60s, but I don't know why (other than anti-freeway sentiment) it never came to pass. Maybe San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee would get behind that.
A Not likely. This idea first surfaced in the 1940s and is resurrected every decade or so. A bond measure was rejected by voters in 1972, and in the 1980s state Senator Quentin Kopp attempted to pass legislation to help build the Southern Crossing, but it fizzled. Then in 2000, Sen. Dianne Feinstein urged the state to study an alternative bay crossing and that's when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission concluded that it would cost up to $8.2 billion to build a bridge from Interstate 238 in Hayward to Interstate 380 in San Bruno.
It was one of six alternatives, and the study identified it as the only one that would significantly reduce the amount of traffic and delay on other bridges. But it's just too costly to happen.
Much lower-cost improvements are looming, such as reconfiguring the East Bay approaches to and from the San Mateo and Dumbarton bridges to accommodate express lanes. The new east span of the Bay Bridge will have full shoulders, which ought to greatly reduce delays caused by accidents, especially on the westbound incline section.
Q Who do you call when a freeway emergency call box is out of order? I tried to report an accident from an emergency phone box on Interstate 280 -- the box number is SC-280-037 -- one day last week but the phone was dead. I found an off-freeway pay phone to report the accident, then tried to tell the CHP dispatcher about the phone. She said she could not take that report because, although I had the box number, I did not know its exact location and their system will not allow them to enter a box number as a location.
A The number to report a nonoperational call box is 800-544-4876. When one is not working, the call box maintenance contractor is notified automatically and then goes out to investigate and make repairs.
Q What's being built at the Vargas Road exit on Interstate 680 through the Fremont area? There's been a lot of construction equipment there for quite a while now.
A This is the $318 million New Irvington Tunnel, meant to seismically upgrade the Hetch Hetchy Water System that channels Sierra Nevada runoff in Yosemite National Park to the Bay Area. Work should end in 2016.
Q The area in Hayward around Mission and Jackson is chaos these days. If you are coming up Jackson and approaching the light at Mission, you see that the two right lanes are supposed to go straight and the two left lanes are supposed to turn left.
But of course many drivers use the middle lane to try and go straight (when they are supposed to turn left), so it causes many issues every day and is NOT policed at ALL. It is just crazy that Hayward doesn't have a solution for this. Their streetlights are not in sync, which would really help out as well. Anything you know that can be done?
A The city has installed some new signs that should better mark the lanes. And in a week or so the signals will be coordinated.
Q I noticed the other night while driving north on Interstate 880 around Hayward during commute hours that the metering lights display a red light on the opposite side of the direction of traffic. Is this for law enforcement?
A Sure is. This allows a cop to sit downstream and catch drivers who don't stop for the red metering light.
Q Heading north on Grant Road in Mountain View, there is a left-turn arrow at the intersection of Oak and Grant. The thing is: The left turn is into a driveway. Why?
A Here's why: There are 20,000 car trips through here each day on this busy street and residents cannot turn left into their driveway on Grant Road during certain hours because of the heavy traffic. So the protected left turn was installed to allow them to safely turn. The green arrow-red arrow sequence comes on only when a vehicle is waiting to make the left turn into the driveway.
Q Oh Sultan of the Streets, Raja of the Roadways: On the west side of San Tomas Expressway, between El Camino Real and Cabrillo, trees have been coming down for months. What's going on? I know that you know all, see all. Please enlighten me.
A Santa Clara and the county are building the first segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek spur trail along the west side of the expressway. Tree removal is completed now, and work on the trail will be done this summer. The next segment will run from El Camino to Homestead Road and will be under construction in 2014.
Join Gary Richards for an hourlong chat noon Wednesday at www.mercurynews.com/live-chats. Look for Gary at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5335. The fax number is 408-288-8060.