Q Here's a question for you or one of your alert readers. I notice that Interstate 680 north experiences a commuter slowdown that seems to start between Durham Road and Mission Boulevard and begins very regularly between 2:45 and 3 p.m. every weekday.
Rush-hour traffic is to be expected in the commute direction, but why does it happen in that area at that time of day? I thought perhaps some people were getting off a day shift at a Fremont manufacturing plant, but day shifts usually end at 3:30 p.m. I can't think of businesses or events in that area that would unload a bunch of vehicles at that time on a regular schedule.
A Get used to it. Drivers know how bad this trek can be during normal commute hours, and I believe many are trying to beat the rush earlier in the day. Some people have flexible schedules, allowing them to leave work in midafternoon, while I-680 also attracts traffic headed to the Central Valley and Lake Tahoe. Plus, there are always more motorists on the road in the afternoon than during the morning.
And there are other factors in play: the improving Bay Area economy, the lack of a carpool lane northbound and no metering lights -- yet.
Q It seems like the metering of southbound 680 between 580 and San Jose has been reasonably successful. Are there plans on metering north 680? The south commute in the morning has been pretty smooth and very consistent, but the northbound afternoon commute backs up in some places where metering could help -- basically between south Mission and Calaveras boulevards.
A There is hope. Caltrans may begin installing meters by the end of this year from I-280 in San Jose north to the Contra Costa County line. They could be working sometime in 2014.
As for a badly needed fourth lane, there are plans to build a carpool/toll lane, but that depends on whether Alameda County voters approve a sales tax measure in November. Pre-construction studies are beginning, but actually paving is a long way off.
Q I've been commuting on the Dumbarton Bridge for 12 years. Up until a week or two ago, traffic was always very light going west between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Lately, however, it seems that I'm stuck in traffic every day. It seems to stem from the backup on the left-turn lane on University Avenue in East Palo Alto. It causes traffic to crawl all the way back to the high-rise. Do you know if any light timing changed recently, or if anything else changed? If so, can you please let us know who to contact to change it back? Going to work has become a nightmare, and I've even tried adjusting the time I leave, but that doesn't help either.
A Palo Alto has been doing some work along East Bayshore Road at the San Francisquito Creek, which has at times closed that road to through traffic and messed with bridge traffic. But a project is under way to coordinate the signals at Capitol/Donohoe and all intersections of University Avenue over the next few weeks.
Q This is no donkey dust. The Oakland Airport's park and call lot could use a porta-potty. I know it's unheard of for flights to be late, but it happens.
A It does indeed, but there are no plans to install a porta-potty when renovations are made later this year. For security reasons, the no-porta-potty policy is common practice when a cellphone lot is installed near an airport's terminal, as drivers must remain with their vehicle at all times and can only wait 30 minutes. You can park in a paid lot and walk into the terminals to pick up passengers or conduct other "business."