Q Why does the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge have a "kink" in it where the high-rise section begins? I suspect that the bridge used to be straight prior to the 1967 addition of the high-rise span, but I couldn't find any old photos to prove or disprove that theory.
A Your facts are pretty good. Rod-the-Caltrans-Man knows just about everything when it comes to Bay Area roads and bridges, and he reports:
"The kink to which Mr. Wynnell refers is at the transition from the low-rise trestle section to the high-rise section and it's due to how the trestle section was widened. When the trestle section had only four lanes (two in each direction), the median barrier in the center of the bridge for both the trestle and high-rise sections made a relatively straight line. However, when the trestle section was widened to six lanes, all of the widening was done along the north side.
"The three westbound lanes are on the widened structure; the three eastbound lanes are (mostly) on the old trestle section. This meant that the six lanes on the trestle section are laterally offset in relation to the six lanes on the high-rise section. I suppose some people may call it a kink, but the transition seems pretty smooth to me whenever I've driven over it."
Q Also, I read that the old San Mateo Bridge was four lanes.
A In those days, the old Division of Bay Toll Crossings was responsible for the toll bridges in the region. Planners did not have the funding to widen the entire span to six lanes, but they were looking ahead to when six lanes might be needed and took the opportunity to build the wider bridge. After that, economic conditions and overall funding priorities kept the project low on the list of highway improvements until voters approved a regionwide tax to make the bridge six lanes each way.
Q I remember when tolls on our bridges cost just $1 not too many years ago. How did we get to the current price of $5?
A Mostly because of you and me and a bunch of other voters.
1988: Bay Area voters approved Regional Measure 1, raising tolls on the state-owned bridges to a uniform $1. Tolls previously ranged from 40 cents to $1. This paid for a new span for the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, a replacement for the west span of the Carquinez Bridge and widening the San Mateo Bridge.
1998: Legislature approved a $1 surcharge to help finance a seismic retrofit program to strengthen and reinforce bridge structures and roadways on five of the bridges.
2004: Voters approved Regional Measure 2, a $1 toll hike.
2007: The seismic surcharge increased to $2 per vehicle and included the Vincent Thomas Bridge in L.A. and the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, as well as state-owned bridges in the Bay Area.
2010: The Bay Area Toll Authority added $1 dollar to provide funds for seismic retrofits of the Dumbarton and Antioch bridges, which were not originally included in the state seismic plan. The fee increase also helped offset a decline in revenues caused by a steady drop in toll bridge traffic, plus an increase in borrowing costs of $35 million a year following upheaval in the municipal bond markets that began in 2007.
Q I live in Martinez and travel on Reliez Valley Road several times a day. If you travel on Reliez going north, the section from Donegal to a little past the entrance of Briones Park is very rough and teeth-shattering. Continuing on Reliez, there is a nice, smooth stretch until you get to Alhambra Road. If you turn right, you experience more teeth-shattering until you reach Alhambra Avenue. The road has been like this for years. It is especially dangerous for motorcycles, cyclists and trucks with trailers hauling hay and horses, especially at night. Parts of the road look like they are sliding. Do you know if there are plans to fix this long stretch?
A Yes, and maybe soon. The city tried to get federal stimulus money two years ago, but Caltrans suggested it drop the project because it is located next to sensitive red-legged frog and Alameda whip snake habitat areas. They could not process the environmental review in the short time frame allotted by the stimulus program. But there is hope of landing more federal aid this summer. There is a lot of red tape to go through, but there is a chance that lasting repairs could be made.
Q The Guadalupe River bike trail is paved and open from north of the light rail parking lot near San Jose City College to the pedestrian bridge at Rio Robles, but it is closed until some concrete work is finished at Tasman Drive. Any update on its opening?
A Construction should be done by mid-March.