Q I've noticed that the metering lights on Highway 4 have created quite the backup at Port Chicago Highway in Concord in the evenings. Even when there's no traffic between Railroad Avenue and Port Chicago, the onramp is backed up to the BART entrance. Traffic backs up and blocks cars trying to exit at Port Chicago, sometimes at least a quarter mile. Is Caltrans planning to fix this or is this mess going to remain?
Steve Brown Sr.
A Well ...
Q Whoever thought metering lights would help the Highway 4 commute is nuts. ... I'm hoping these lights work, but I have my doubts. ... What has been the experience elsewhere with meters?
F. Lane and more
A Hang tough for a few weeks, as Caltrans will tweak the meters as needed, but it admits there will be disruptions for a period of time. But these signals do work. Back in the mid-1990s, Santa Clara County officials ordered the meters on Highway 85 to be turned off for a few weeks when drivers complained. Off they went and within days the commute became much worse. The 241/2-mile drive from South San Jose to Mountain View took 11 minutes longer with the meters off. Today I get far more requests for meters to be installed, with many drivers on Highway 101 in Morgan Hill and I-680 over the Sunol Grade begging for them.
Q Do you know when the new metering lights for the Somersville Road onramp to Highway 4 will be running? I have been avoiding it.
A Work on the Somersville Road interchange won't be done until the end of this year. That's when meters will be turned on.
Q A few years ago the Highway 101 onramps were redone at Tennant Avenue and Dunne Avenue in Morgan Hill. They put in new metering lights, which as of today have never been turned on. So every morning it takes me 30 to 45 minutes to go through Morgan Hill from Gilroy.
You can see it, three to five cars coming on at a time, causing others to brake. This backs up as far as Masten Avenue in Gilroy. Once you pass Cochrane Road it opens up to 65 mph. Why can't Morgan Hill turn on its metering lights?
A I bring good news -- finally. But first ...
Q Would you be able to shed some light on the metering lights going northbound 101 through Morgan Hill? Life on the road as early as 5:30 a.m. has progressively gotten worse on northbound 101 between San Martin and Morgan Hill over the years my wife and I have commuted it. It bottlenecks at the East Dunne exit. Will the metering lights ever be lit up? Or were they put there for decor?
The Works Family
Miserable in Gilroy
A Finally, yes, yes and yes! Next week the California Transportation Commission will earmark $15 million for ramp meters on 101 from the San Benito County line to Highway 85. They could be running red-to-green in early 2015.
Q Your column a few weeks ago about the man who got a ticket for exceeding the 55 mph "limit" on Highway 17 southbound between Lark Avenue and Highway 9 got me to wondering if the same paradox might exist northbound. So I checked it out for myself. I have now driven that stretch of 17 three times while specifically looking for speed limit signs, and guess what I didn't find?
Sure enough, there is a 55-mph speed limit sign between Highway 9 and Lark northbound. Then I cannot find any other speed limit sign until after I-280! Does this mean that the speed limit is in fact 55 mph along that entire stretch? How could that possibly be correct? If it is, there are thousands of violators -- me included -- every day.
Can you have Caltrans check this out? I'd hate to see some overzealous CHP officer start ticketing folks (maybe me!) based on that one 55-mph sign, as was apparently the case for that other reader who got tagged southbound.
A Your plea has prompted Caltrans to review this stretch, and the state will likely put up a few 65-mph signs soon.
Q Does Caltrans have plans to have a third or a fourth FasTrak-only lane on the Dumbarton Bridge? There are two FasTrak-only lanes now and those lanes always back up. You can use other lanes with FasTrak but inevitably I get stuck behind somebody who doesn't have correct change and takes forever to pay. Traffic really comes to a stop.
A Alas, there are no plans to add another FasTrak-only lane at Dumbarton. You now have two lanes with a third reserved for FasTrak users and carpoolers during weekday commute times. Bridge officials say part of the reason is the design, as there are only three freeway lanes before spreading to seven lanes at the plaza -- one for cash, one for FasTrak and one for carpools.
FasTrak customers outnumber cash customers by more than 2 to 1, while it's split about 50/50 on weekends.
Q If BART goes out on strike, does that also shut down the shuttle bus that runs from the BART Coliseum station to the Oakland airport?
A Yes, it would shut it down.
Q I, too, am simply aghast that Caltrans isn't using the occasion of the opening of the fourth bore at the Caldecott Tunnel to use it for a week or two as a third bore while they spruce up bores 1 and 2. A little white paint on the curbs and walls would improve traffic flow so much. What a bang could be had for the dollar. Shame on them for doing nothing with a once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity. Even without a backup, cars slow going through the dark and twisty two old bores. A little white paint and cars wouldn't slow down so much.
A White paint can do wonders.