Q Last Thursday while driving back from Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center on 101 north of Blossom Hill Road, I saw what appeared to be the entire San Jose police fleet of cars and only one private car creating a traffic jam. Do you know what was going on? ... I saw a bunch of policemen on The Alameda last week. Was there some kind of crackdown?
Hector Flores and many more
A Police and reserve officers were escorting runners participating in the Special Olympics Torch Run. Some of the runners participate in the Special Olympics, but most of the runners are law enforcement workers who raised funds for the cause. Many law enforcement agencies participate in this annual event. San Jose Police Department runners typically run with participants from the District Attorney's Office and "pass the torch" to Santa Clara Police Department members who run through their city, and so on.
Q Why doesn't Caltrans have a carpool lane on the stretch of Interstate 580 west from Highway 238 through the MacArthur Maze? I catch an AC Transit transbay bus in East Oakland. The bus can't access a carpool lane until it actually passes through the Maze and is on I-80 (the stretch where the toll area begins). Traffic is always backed up and it doesn't seem to matter whether I catch the 6:15 a.m. bus or a later bus. The bus just has to inch along in traffic with everyone else until it clears the Maze.
A This may surprise you, but Caltrans says there has not been enough congestion along that segment of I-580 to warrant a carpool lane. Since available right of way is essentially nonexistent where it's needed the most, widening the road to add a carpool lane would likely mean replacing several substantial and costly structures. In Caltrans' opinion, the price tag would have been too expensive and the time savings too meager.
In addition, Caltrans believes converting a lane for solo drivers into a carpool lane would result in longer backups and delays for buses because all lanes are needed to get through there and ease the weaving chaos, particularly between Highway 13 and the Maze.
Q Are there any plans to add a carpool lane on I-580 from Interstate 680 to Oakland?
Q I drive the reverse commute (fortunately) on Interstate 580 in Livermore and I see two obstacles for the freeway being expanded beyond four lanes westbound. First is the First Street overpass, which cannot be widened beyond its current width without being replaced. Second is the bridge over Las Positas Creek at the Isabela ramp, where the existing, recently rebuilt left shoulder is too sloped for drainage to permit traffic on it, and the right shoulder is almost nonexistent because of the railing of the bridge. In many places the freeway is being widened two to three additional lanes from the Altamont to nearly 680, but what happens to these bottlenecks when it is completed?
A The state says it can squeeze in extra lanes throughout the entire length of the project as a carpool/toll lane from east of Greenville Road to west of I-680 by narrowing some of the existing lanes and shoulders. The westbound direction of I-580 will have four general purpose lanes and one HOV/toll lane by 2015.
Additionally, auxiliary lanes will be available between all major interchanges in the Livermore Valley. At the First Street overcrossing -- which will not be replaced -- there will be five lanes. At the Las Positas Creek bridge, the widening work will also allow for five lanes.
Q On the BART ride back from an A's game, I pondered why doesn't BART have solar panels? They're an all-electric system, so they have plenty of need. They have tens of acres of parking, much of which, like in Fremont, is already tree-free. The shade of a solar panel forest would be welcome there. How about over the train yards? The station roofs? How about even over the track right of way? Is it in the works?
A Solar panels have been used on a limited basis for about five years at maintenance yards in Richmond and Hayward. BART has also added solar panels over 350 parking spaces at the Lafayette station and is exploring panels at other stations, too.
Q As noted in a recent column, Highway 9 is a mess starting below Skyline Boulevard. A stoplight has been installed and adds 10 minutes to commutes. But the maddening thing is that Caltrans put up the stoplight and then disappeared. No workers, no machinery, just lines of cars held hostage by a self-serving state agency. No wonder it is going to take two years. Nobody is working!
A Waits of 10 minutes will continue through the one-way traffic control, especially during peak hours or special events at wineries, but now that the K-rails have been installed, you'll see workers out there. The signal time has to take into account bicyclists that drive through this corridor seven days a week and on weekends to allow them enough time to navigate through the 1,000-plus feet of K-rail at two locations. One signal is close to Highway 35, the other near Pierce Road.
The project will add shoulders, wider lanes and barriers on this narrow highway. It may take two years, since there are environmental requirements that will keep crews from working past early fall through spring.
Bicyclists can slide in behind vehicles and ride through the single lane or they can hit the manual button that will allow them to pass through safely and before the light changes on the other side.
Q Thanks to Karen Armstrong for asking about the Highway 9 work. From your answer I learned that impatient drivers should NOT hop out of their cars and press the bicycle button. It does not make the light change any sooner and actually lengthens the time for cars coming the other way!
A How do you know that?
Q The light stayed red so long (over 3 minutes) that I thought it was broken, so I did it!