Q Thursday's big rig accident is just more evidence for my pleas to restrict trucks on Highway 17. No big rigs on northbound 17 from 6 to 9 a.m. and southbound from 3 to 7 p.m. They slow traffic, cause accidents and are a menace on our highway.
A Thursday's fatal crash, which closed northbound Highway 17 for much of the day, has prompted new calls for a ban on trucks on the curvy, 28-mile four-lane road from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos.
Q Can we now have a serious discussion about limiting sand trucks using Highway 17 to off-peak hours? Besides the obvious safety issues, how does it make sense that the movement of workers, students, educators and tradespeople to and from Silicon Valley have to be slowed every day by the delivery of sand?
A There is virtually no chance that a big-rig ban on Highway 17 will be put in place, Caltrans says. The reason is simple: Trucks have no realistic alternative to travel between the South Bay and the Santa Cruz area. The best alternative is Highway 156 south of Gilroy. As part of the Highway 17 safety program that began 16 years ago, some trucking companies have cut back on trips during peak hours in the commute direction, and that has helped.
Trucks over 4.5 tons are banned on Highway 85 because big rigs have other options, such as Highway 101 and Interstate 280. They are also banned on I-580 north of Highway 238 through the East Bay because I-880 and I-680 are nearby.
CHP statistics show accidents involving trucks are few compared to those involving automobiles on 17. There were 74 crashes involving big rigs in 1998; today it's less than half that amount.
Q When there is a fatal accident like the one on Highway 17, why does it take so long to reopen a major traffic artery like 17? How much time does it take to gather evidence and collect reports in a situation like that?
A It can take a very long time. Emergency crews need be dispatched, set up traffic controls, treat the injured and investigate the site as a potential crime scene since there was a death involved. Only then can damaged vehicles be removed.
Q Any plans to add a third lane on Highway 92 from 101 to Interstate 280? ... How about a third lane on 92 from I-280 to Highway 1?
Steven Smith, Brenda Tyler and a few more
A No widening is under consideration. The focus is on the interchange at 92 and El Camino Real. A study concluded that large-scale improvements are expensive and unlikely. Some smaller-scale improvements need to be looked at more closely.
Q Can you tell me the purpose of the work on Highway 152/Watsonville Road in Gilroy that will be going on for the next three years?
A The state is beginning a safety improvement project between Uvas Creek and Hecker Pass to reduce head-on collisions.
Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow.