Q I don't get it! The short, dangerous, last eastbound onramp into the Caldecott Tunnel is still unfinished. It looks like the paving has been completed and all that is needed is the striping. How much longer do we have to take our fate into our own hands?
A About another month. The reopening of the eastbound Route 24 onramp just west of the Caldecott Tunnel is related to the realignment work for approaches to Bores 1 and 2, and also to the median work currently underway on the western side of the tunnel in Oakland.
And about that work ...
Q As one enters the Caldecott Tunnel it curves and as you exit it curves again -- IN THE SAME DIRECTION. Why was it designed this way when a straight line would have been simpler? What am I missing?
A This, says Ivy-the-Caltrans-Caldecott-Know-It-All:
"The alignment of the four bores of the Caldecott were designed taking terrain, soil conditions and geology into consideration. If the bores were straighter, it would have required more excavation, higher retaining walls on the eastern side and would have conflicted with the Fish Ranch Road ramps for Bores 3 and 4.
"In addition, the large radius curves on each end of the tunnel meet design standards for speed and sight distance, while still making the tunnel the shortest length possible.
"As far as Bore 4, in particular, this alignment enabled Caltrans to build it close to the third bore, thereby enabling the construction of seven cross-passages between the two tunnels, which will serve as emergency passages for motorists in the event of a serious incident.
"To draw a straight line from each end of the tunnel would have increased the length of the tunnel by about 40 percent, increasing costs, and creating right-of-way and environmental impacts, and may have in fact made moving forward with the project impossible."
Q The streets leading up to the I-80 east/I-580 west onramp north of the Berkeley/Emeryville border at the southern edge of Aquatic Park are in the worst condition I've ever seen. Once you cross Shellmound Street in Emeryville and into Berkeley, the street becomes Bay Street and is so filled with potholes it's virtually impossible to find a single smooth patch of pavement.
Potter Street, which connects to the onramp itself, is also in atrocious condition. As this is the main connection to the freeway from northern Emeryville, it's an absolute disgrace how badly neglected this road is. Can you please get the city of Berkeley to get off their butts and do something about it?
A A ray of hope. The city will be paving Potter from the Bay Street Bridge to Interstate 80 next year as well as paving S. Bolivar Drive from the Potter turn to where it dead-ends in Aquatic Park.
Q The Ocean Avenue offramp from north Interstate 280 in San Francisco is very short and often backs up into the freeway, creating a very dangerous situation for those at the end of the line when 280 traffic is moving at full speed around a curve. Drivers often pull to the shoulder to keep from being rear-ended. I know there's a convergence of automobiles, Muni Metro light rail trains and pedestrians outside of a BART station that slows exiting drivers, but I can visualize that there's room to widen the ramp to three lanes. This would allow for a double right turn onto Ocean Avenue and alleviate much of the problem. Anything in the works to fix this accident waiting to happen?
A No. The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is conducting a planning study of the Geneva Avenue and Ocean Avenue corridors to improve transit operation and pedestrian safety. But given San Francisco's transit-first policy, they are not looking at making improvements for auto traffic.
Caltrans has also looked at this intersection several times and here is its conclusion, according to Rod-the-Roadshow-Consultant:
"It's a one-lane ramp where it exits northbound I-280 and widens to two lanes about 100 feet after the exit to Geneva Avenue, with the left lane for only left turns and the right lane for left turns, right turns and through traffic.
"What we've found is that the left turns are the heavier movement in the morning and require two lanes. However, right turns are the heavier movement in the afternoon and also require two lanes. Since we can only stripe the lanes one way, we decided to use the current configuration, which accommodates the morning peak traffic. Of course, this means that the afternoon peak traffic is not accommodated, which is why the offramp backs up. If we had decided to reverse the turning designations, we could improve the afternoon backup, but would have a similar backup problem in the morning."
Widening the offramp to three lanes would not be feasible, he adds.
"Despite his observation, there simply isn't sufficient space. The BART station is located to the immediate right of the offramp, so widening on the right would not be practical. The freeway and overcrossing structure is to the immediate left. Widening the offramp on the left would require a very tall retaining wall and rebuilding the Geneva Avenue overcrossing, which would be very expensive.
"In addition, even if we could widen the offramp, it would not guarantee that the ramp backup would clear up because Geneva Avenue itself operates poorly due to relatively high vehicle demands, heavy pedestrian traffic, and frequent Muni bus and light rail service."
Q Gary, there was a recent accident on Highway 101 in Morgan Hill, which was caused by a driver going 80 mph in the rain and hitting a tanker truck. This accident resulted in the truck overturning and spilling gas into a local creek.
If the cause is confirmed as reckless driving, shouldn't the driver of the auto also be charged with the cost of cleaning up the environmental damage, too? Throw the book at him/her.
A It can happen. The state says it can bill the person held responsible on the CHP report.