Q The speed limit on Highway 17 between Los Gatos and Scotts Valley is 50 mph, but many people go 60 or 65. I know that slower traffic should use the right lane except when passing, but when I come up behind a slow truck, is it OK for me to signal and change lanes to pass, even though drivers in the left lane are tailgating each other?
I've had drivers in the left lane honk at me or accelerate into the space I had planned on using. I'm trying to be courteous by driving in the right lane and let faster drivers pass on the left, but if the choice is between being a road boulder in the left lane or following trucks at 15 mph in the right lane, then what should I do?
A Two things. First, try to avoid closely following a big rig on 17. If you see one ahead chugging slowly along, make your move into the left lane as early and as safely as you can.
But if you get behind a lumbering truck, follow it from a safe distance until you are certain it is safe to merge into the left lane, where speeders and tailgaters are more likely to hang out. If there is a long line of traffic in that lane tailgating each other, don't jam your way in.
And use your blinkers!
Q I would like to suggest that Caltrans make the right tollbooth lane at the Interstate 680 entrance to the Benicia Bridge a FasTrak-only lane. The Waterfront Road-Marina Vista entrance to the freeway is very close to the toll entrance and makes cutting over many lanes to the far-left "FasTrak Express" entrance a risky endeavor.
The approachable toll booths on the right are usually both "Cash and FasTrak" and frequently have lines of cars and trucks stopped because many drivers have to stop to pay cash for their toll. Designating the toll booth on the far right as "FasTrak Only" would make the Marina Vista entrance safer for FasTrak drivers and allow them to make use of their FasTrak benefit.
A Sorry, it's not going to happen. The right side of the Benicia toll plaza is the only lane wide enough for trucks that pay by cash, and thus cannot be converted to FasTrak-only despite the short approach to the toll plaza for drivers entering 680 from Marina Vista.
The challenge is balancing the convenience and safety of the comparatively small number of Marina Vista drivers with the convenience and safety of the much greater number of drivers approaching the toll area from north 680.
"Keep in mind that all lanes at the toll plaza can accommodate FasTrak. My best advice for FasTrak customers approaching from Marina Vista is to stay in the cash/FasTrak lanes at the right side of the plaza. A minute or two spent in the queue is a small price to pay compared to the risk of collision with high-speed traffic at the left side of the plaza."
Q We were returning from San Francisco the other night on Highway 4 eastbound. Just before you get to Railroad Avenue, there is a flashing sign that reads "55 mph zone ahead." Right after the railroad overpass, there is a posted sign that reads "55 mph zone ahead."
However, there is no speed limit sign change until you pass Somersville Road. I believe a sign has to be posted indicating the speed limit (not just a warning of a pending change).
Al Del Grande
A The first 55-mph sign for eastbound traffic was between Harbor Street and Loveridge Road. The sign was knocked down by a car but should be reinstalled any day.
Q Where Highway 238 meets the offramp for Interstate 880 south, why didn't they paint the lines in such a way that traffic from the right lane of 238 can either go toward 880 north or 880 south? The current configuration forces everyone to merge to the right in order to exit to 880 south. If they repainted, it seems clear that traffic would flow much more smoothly.
A You are so right and Caltrans agrees. But the state wants to wait before it re-stripes this area. It fears changing the lines now will add to the growing backup on south 880 and it wants to make this change in 2017, when express lanes are added on 880.
Q Any word on when the Highway 238 to southbound I-880 metering lights will be turned on?
A Late next year.
Q Help me with the Highway 101 and Embarcadero Road intersection in Palo Alto. When entering southbound 101 from eastbound Embarcadero, there are two merges -- one from westbound Embarcadero and a second from eastbound Oregon Expressway.
Who should yield here? There isn't a yield sign on the entrance ramp from eastbound Embarcadero yet a majority coming from Oregon Expressway don't yield. It's a gamble to see who might yield or slow down.
A This is a tricky blending of several merge lanes. When no yield signs are erected, the car on the right must yield to cars on the left, just as vehicles entering a highway must give way to those already on the highway.
Specifically, cars merging onto 101 south from west Embarcadero must yield to vehicles that have already exited 101 south. And cars merging onto 101 south from eastbound Embarcadero must also yield to the 101 traffic. And then next, vehicles merging onto 101 south from Oregon Expressway must yield to those vehicles on the left that have already yielded/merged.
Ultimately, when all vehicles have merged, they must then yield to vehicles already on 101 south.