Q My understanding is that Caltrans permits roadside memorials for a certain length of time. There was a fatal motorcycle accident along Interstate 680 between Livorna Road and Rudgear Road in Alamo last March. Someone has been placing flowers, etc., for the past year. Now a wooden cross has been erected.
What if everyone is allowed to use the highways for personal memorials? I don't mean to sound insensitive but I think a year is long enough.
A There are many who agree -- and disagree. Memorials like this are illegal in California, as safety officials say they can be distracting to drivers. But sympathetic road crews often let them stand until flowers wilt and other items turn trashy. This can be several months.
In this case, your comments prompted the state to begin removing the items in what Bob-the-Caltrans-Man says is a delicate issue:
"We are not insensitive to the grieving of friends and family members who have lost someone on a highway, and we understand their motivation to place a memorial. But the sides of highways are very dangerous places. Our crews have the best in safety equipment, and receive the best in safety training. Yet they remain at risk every time they access the highway shoulders or medians. A person with no equipment or training is placing themselves in great danger. If a person is killed or injured during the placement of a memorial, the tragedy would be compounded. We want to avoid that at all costs."
The state normally tries to contact family members before removing the memorial to explain why the removal is necessary. If the family can't be located, Caltrans will keep the memorial in a maintenance yard for a short period of time in the hopes that someone will claim it.
Q I know Interstate 880 is being widened to expand the carpool lanes in San Leandro around Marina Boulevard and Davis Street. I assume the overpass construction is also in conjunction with the new Kaiser Permanente complex on the old Lucky's distribution center 37-acre lot.
As it exists, a substantial amount of traffic going south on 880 exits at Marina Boulevard, crosses over two lanes to use two left turn lanes onto Merced. This configuration has always been dangerous and there is lots of lane blocking at the signal, especially from the large semi trucks which turn left on the green left-turn signal while the intersection is already blocked ahead. The lights change and eastbound traffic on Marina is completely blocked, sometimes for more than one cycle.
What is the final plan to handle the increased traffic from south 880 left onto Merced once these projects are completed?
A The new hospital is scheduled to open in June and the planned improvements on Marina Boulevard should open next year. New signals will be up at Marina and at the north 880 onramp, at Marina and the south 880 offramp, and at Marina and Kaiser Driveway, a new intersection between 880 and Merced.
Southbound I-880 traffic exiting the freeway heading west towards the new Kaiser hospital will use Merced to enter the facility via a two-lane left turn pocket. The new Kaiser Driveway will serve westbound Marina traffic and will have a single left-turn lane. Westbound traffic on Marina will also use the Merced entrance.
The three signals on Marina will communicate with each other via a signal interconnect system, allowing a more appropriate use of green time for all three signal locations when work is completed.
And the new Marina bridge will have four lanes (two lanes in each direction). This configuration will remain until the second half of the new bridge is constructed.
Q Driving north on Alma Street in Palo Alto the other evening, a pole-mounted warning sign began flashing in big bright red letters: "SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN," above which was a regulation 35-mph speed limit sign. As I got closer to the sign, it posted my actual speed -- 32 mph. How much should I have slowed down? There were no other cars around me to confuse the poor little sign and it was not the first sign to do this to me.
A Boy, do I get this complaint a lot. The city has several vehicle speed feedback signs around town, mainly on major streets like Alma and Embarcadero Road. The signs are supposed to flash "SLOW DOWN" for any speed within 5 mph of the posted limit (it varies between 25 and 35 along Alma. Any speed that is 16 mph over the posted speed limit, the sign blanks out to avoid encouraging people who are speeding just to see their speed on the sign.