Q If you stay left on south Interstate 880 heading toward the Maze from Berkeley and take the flyover carpool lane to the Bay Bridge, you get the opportunity to keep right and follow signs that says "Buses only" and include markers for carpoolers.

That leads to the far-right lanes at the toll plaza. Going after 10 a.m., those lanes appear to have no FasTrak sensors. So even though drivers with HOV stickers are not charged a toll during commute hours (5-10 a.m.), after that, I think I got a free pass on the bridge.

My question: Is it legal for carpool drivers to use that lane in non-commute hours?

Felix Kramer

Berkeley

A bus bypasses the Bay Bridge toll plaza in the far right lane, for buses and carpools.
A bus bypasses the Bay Bridge toll plaza in the far right lane, for buses and carpools.

A No. The far right lanes at the Bay Bridge are open to buses and carpools during weekday peak periods, but only to buses during off-peak hours and on weekends. The lanes are also equipped with FasTrak readers in order to collect the $2.50 toll from carpoolers during weekday commute times.

Q I am a casual carpooler and have been so for several years. Thanks for telling us about AC Transit options for the trip from San Francisco back to the East Bay. I may try the bus.

Phillip Fitzgerald

A And here is something to be aware off. Beginning Monday, the west side of Spear Street in San Francisco between Howard and Folsom streets will be a new temporary location for casual carpoolers. A new residential construction project on the north side of Folsom Street between Beale Street and Fremont Street is scheduled to begin this fall and requires the change for up to18 months.

 

Q We live in Alameda across the estuary from the Interstate 880 overpass work. The other night they were at it again driving piles. The noise carries across the water and is very annoying. It has been going on for many months. When will they finish?

Tom Jenckes

Alameda

A Not for a couple of months, I'm afraid. This is part of the Fifth Avenue bridge seismic retrofit job.

Q This has been bugging me for some time. At the Interstate 580-35th Avenue offramp in Oakland, it used to be that each lane was designated as a left-hand and a right-hand turn only. Now they made it so the right-hand lane can also be used to make a left turn.

I can't make the right-hand turn on red until the light changes. It seems they have more than enough room to widen the exit near the light to accommodate those who make the right turn. Is it possible for Caltrans to address this?

Harold Lee

Oakland

A Not likely. There are no plans to add an extra right-turn only lane. The number of drivers turning left here to warrant two left-turn lanes and the change has eased the backup in the far left lane.

Q I thought that the changes being made at the 280-880-Stevens Creek Boulevard interchange were supposed to improve traffic flow, so why are they replacing non-signalized loop ramps with signalized left turns? Do the people who design freeways actually drive on them?

Gary McCormick

San Jose

A They do, believe it or not. The changes here are similar to those made at other interchanges when they are rebuilt. The old loop ramp configuration was designed before the U.S. put a man on the moon (which was in 1969, for the youngsters out there), when traffic was a lot lighter. Traffic engineers say studies show that the upcoming changes provide for better traffic flow onto Stevens Creek because signals can more easily be synchronized and it's safer.

Here are the changes that should occur in a couple of weeks:

Motorists headed to eastbound Stevens Creek/San Carlos from southbound I-880 will be able to make a left turn at the ramp signal at the Stevens Creek exit.

Three right-turn lanes will remain as they are today for westbound Stevens Creek. The existing offramp loop to San Carlos will be removed.

Also, motorists headed to southbound Highway 17 and southbound I-280 from westbound Stevens Creek will be making a left turn at the ramp signal to enter the freeway. The loop onramp to southbound 17 and I-280 will be removed.

The entire project could be completed late next year.

Q It being fire season, can I call 911 to report the car in front of me tossing a lit smoke from the window into the dry shoulder on Highway 17? I feel like this behavior is attempted arson this time of year.

Mike Rhoades

Ben Lomond

A It certainly is stupid. A person can call 911, but that line is best used for immediate dangers: traffic collisions, debris in the road, drunk drivers and actual fires.

In a case like this, the CHP recommends calling 1-800-Tell-CHP or the local office. This is only an infraction and a cop cannot cite drivers tossing lit cigarettes into fire-prone areas without witnessing it.

If you notify the CHP and have a license plate number, a letter will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle scolding him or her about toss.

Q For several weeks Caltrans has been surveying on Foothill Expressway where it passes under Interstate 280. What are they planning here?

Leigh Stevens

Cupertino

A As part of prep work to replace concrete slabs, shoulders and the drainage system on I-280 from north of Wolfe Road to Foothill, Caltrans is surveying the area to construct ramps that comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. This project should be in construction in about a year.

The Valley Transportation Authority has a project that should be under construction soon to add a second exit lane from the north I-280 ramp to Foothill.

Q Do you notice that people sometimes use their turn signal as an approval from God to change lanes no matter who they cut off? This is one of my biggest driving pet peeves and wondered if you noticed this as well.

Scott Mitchell

Redwood City

A I try not to.

Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335. Follow Mr. Roadshow at Twitter.com/mrroadshow.