Q Who can we thank for the head-scratcher of a bottleneck on Interstate 280 south between El Monte Road and Magdalena? Will there ever be a fourth lane put in? My wife and I commute to Palo Alto and this area is the bane of our evening commute.
A Interstate 280 commuters, congratulations -- not! You are now suffering through one of the toughest commutes in Silicon Valley.
Q I started working in San Francisco in June and the morning commute on I-280 is great; never any problems. The evening commute is another animal. Starting about 4 p.m. it backs up in Los Altos Hills, where the freeway goes from four to three lanes. It seems as if there is plenty of room to have four lanes of traffic. It wasn't like this 25 years ago when I used to do the same commute. What gives (besides there are more high-tech companies now)?
A As Mrs. Roadshow can attest when she had a commute from South San Francisco nearly a decade ago, this has been a problem for years -- only now it is much, much worse as the economy picks up, and it now ranks as bad as the drive on 17, 85, 101, 237, 680 and 880.
Q What gripes me is there is plenty of room for four lanes all the way past Magdalena to the start of the carpool lane. Why can't this be re-striped to provide some congestion relief? ... Gary, please check out I-280 and weigh in on this mess. ... Are there any plans to add a fourth southbound lane? Please say YES!
David Spencer, Alan Depew, Edison Yee, Diane Balsam, Jignesh Joshi, Bill Mitchell, Chris Walz and so many others
A Brace yourself -- the answer is ... NO! Yep, NO! Someday the carpool lane may be extended, but that may be a decade away.
I drove I-280 the other night and it took me 53 minutes to cover 12 miles from around El Monte to Lawrence Expressway. The only thing that made that crawl bearable was listening to the vice-presidential debate that night. But unlike Joe Biden, I wasn't laughing.
Q Would it be possible to add an auxiliary lane on southbound I-280 between De Anza Boulevard and Wolfe Road? There's enough pavement on that stretch to add a lane with re-striping. Doing this would really help traffic on south I-280.
A More bad news. There are no plans to do so.
Q I recently have noticed something in my evening commute on I-280 south that I don't think is legal. At the El Monte Avenue exit, many people (including one of those commuter buses) get off at the exit but instead of actually taking the exit, they get right back onto the freeway, avoiding a long line of cars. I assume this is not allowed. Can police monitor this area?
A It is legal. Not courteous, but moves like this are OK at freeway exits unless there are black-and-white signs telling drivers they cannot re-enter the freeway.
Q The onramp from Wolfe Road in Cupertino to north I-280 has a carpool lane on the left and a regular lane on the right. Until a few days ago, the carpool lane had its own signal. It was mysteriously removed, so now the only signal is a vertical pole to the right of the regular lane. What are my wife and I supposed to do now? Just roll through the carpool lane without stopping? Why was the signal removed?
A The meter was knocked down by a car and will be replaced, but I am not certain when. Because there are two lanes here, carpoolers should approach the end of the carpool lane on the ramp where the signal would be and proceed cautiously when safe to do so. Even with no light here, most drivers will stop when there are cars in the adjacent lane, and that seems prudent.