Q Mr. Roadshow: Can you please tell me why every single day Highway 85 is a parking lot during rush hour? It functions as a slow-moving parking lot. Side streets are faster!
A You are not the only one complaining about the 85 commute.
Q Who should I contact to request that the carpool hours on Highway 85 be changed to only the morning or only afternoon, as applicable?
For example, the 85 morning commute is only northbound. Therefore the carpool lane on southbound 85 does not have to be in effect in the mornings. Similarly, the carpool lane on 85 northbound should be open for all drivers in the afternoon.
I noticed such morning/afternoon only signs on 101 in the San Rafael area, so I assume it is possible to be done. I see similar issues on Highway 87, where the heavy traffic is only northbound in the mornings, and southbound in the afternoons. Your advice would be appreciated.
A I understand your plea, but the carpool hours were set during the environmental review process in the 1980s and won't be changed. Caltrans firmly believes that traffic delays on the reverse commute direction will grow in the South Bay and carpool lanes will be needed. Also, the state wants carpool hours to remain consistent with adjacent roads to avoid confusion. Almost all freeways in the South Bay have diamond lane hours that run from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in both directions.
Caltrans will review the hours on 101 when the carpool lane is completed between Marin County and Sonoma County.
Q When will the Valley Transportation Authority add extra lanes to both northbound and southbound Highway 85? I truly detest this part of my commute.
A In maybe two to three years, the 85 carpool lanes will be converted to toll lanes, where solo drivers can buy their way to a faster commute. Tolls will be set based on the amount of congestion. The higher the congestion, the higher the toll.
In addition, the stretch of 85 from 87 to I-280 will have two carpool lanes in each direction.
And by early 2015, metering lights could be in use on all ramps from I-280 north to 101 in Mountain View.
Q The curvy loop ramp from north 17 to north 85 is often jammed and the sharp curve to the right is no fun. Are there plans to build a flyover ramp here?
A No, but here's a bit of trivia. When the interchange was built in the early 1990s, Caltrans built a tunnel that was to carry traffic from north 17 to north 85, similar to the tunnel that carries traffic from south 17 to south 85. But because of budget cuts, the second tunnel was sealed at both ends by the dirt embankment. Maybe one of these years, this direct link will be finished.
Q I thought vehicles over 41/2 tons were prohibited on Highway 85. I routinely see large trucks and buses on 85. Have the rules changed or are they simply no longer enforced?
A Trucks over 41/2 tons are banned on 85 from 101 in South San Jose to I-280. But the CHP says the ban is not reflected on GPS systems, and truckers new to the area sometimes drive this freeway not knowing they shouldn't be there. And sometimes big rigs get special permits to use 85 when nearby construction is underway.
Two-axle vehicles like UPS delivery trucks usually weigh less than 41/2 tons. And buses are legal on 85.
You can find Gary Richards' columns at www.mercurynews.com/mr-roadshow or www.mercurynews.com/traffic. Follow Gary at Twitter.com/mrroadshow, look for him at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at email@example.com or 408-920-5335.