Work on the Contra Costa County side of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is causing some traffic frustration for drivers heading east in the evening and along Highway 101 in Marin.

Caltrans crews are now working on the $18 million Interstate 580 Scofield Avenue bridge deck replacement just east of the span.

As part of the work to replace the aging structure, last week eastbound traffic was shifted to a new configuration that allows construction to take place in an island between two lanes of traffic near the Chevron refinery.

That has split the two lanes, leaving some drivers perplexed about which way to go, even though both soon reconnect.

"When I was observing last week, some drivers seem to park right in the middle," noted Allyn Amsk, Caltrans spokesman. "The lanes are also narrow and that is slowing people down."

On a typical commute evening it takes about 15 minutes to get from the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard interchange to the construction area. Now that same trip is taking 35 minutes, according to Caltrans. The slowdown has also served to back up traffic in Marin traveling northbound on Highway 101 and southbound at the 580 interchange.

The delay has not gone unnoticed by regional transportation officials.

"That project near the Chevron refinery is causing some issues for Marin, no doubt," said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency charged with making sure traffic flows smoothly on Bay Area highways.

Caltrans has already made one adjustment to ease traffic. Originally one of the lanes was set to be closed at 7 p.m. to allow crews to stage equipment. Now the time has been pushed back to 8 p.m. to allow more commute traffic to flow through.

By the end of this month, the split lane configuration is expected to end as work is completed in the median. Then lanes will be rejoined and pushed left, while work is done on the right side of the bridge. The entire project will be completed in December.

"The public should know there is an end point," Amsk said. "This work will make the structure much safer."

Contact Mark Prado via email at mprado@marinij.com

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©2013 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)

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