Q I continue to be amused at the number of metering lights that get knocked down by vehicles. Will you ever devote a column to those drivers who could tell us what they were doing at the time they knocked them down? On the other hand, would any driver write in and confess to their driving prowess when it comes to the difficult maneuvers required to safely pass those irresistible metering lights? Doubt it. Lights out!
A I doubt it, too. But this is a huge problem. Caltrans operates 347 meters in the Bay Area and about 80 get knocked down year. The cost to replace a meter is about $5,000, or $400,000 per year. Causes range from speeding, going too fast in wet weather, curvy locations, etc. But if any meter-whackers want to share their experience, fire away.
Q So, am I reading this right? The use of metering lights should alleviate the congestion at all Interstate 80 entrances before the Bay Bridge, right? OK. Works so well on the Bay Bridge. Not!
A Ye of little faith. Metering lights are not perfect, but they are the cheapest and perhaps the best tool to easing traffic woes on I-80 between the Carquinez Bridge and Bay Bridge. The onramp lights will be installed as part of an $80 million project to use technology to ease the awful traffic delays through here.
Q The bottleneck at the turn of I-80 into I-580 is due to the sharpness of the curve. When drivers can't see ahead far enough, they slow down, and the vehicles stack up on I-80 even though there is lots of open space in the lanes ahead on I-580. A partial solution worth trying would be an electronic sign strategically placed at the beginning of the curve indicating a minimum speed, such as 46 mph or "faster" or "close the gap" or "don't dawdle," "get moving," "wake up" to encourage drivers to pick up the pace, get around the curve and relieve the congestion backup on I-80.
A You are so right. The upcoming project on I-80 will include signs that will have changing speed limits and coordinate traffic signals along San Pablo Avenue, which many drivers use as a parallel route when traffic jams up on the freeway.
Q A few months ago I joined the westbound I-580 commute from Livermore, so I exit the city on the Airway Boulevard meter lane. The exit under the overpass has a meter lane and a carpool lane. The problem -- and it's getting worse every day -- is that a lot of luxury cars and SUVs with a solo driver use the carpool lane with impunity and some don't even stop at the red light.
I'm guessing that most of those are residents of Ruby Hill and are not afraid of a carpool lane ticket. While the rest of us go through the meter light, some will even point and laugh at us. I contacted the Highway Patrol and an officer told me that something was going to be done, but up to now I have not seen any one of those being stopped and fined.
The situation is getting out of hand. I have seen drivers in the meter lane attempt to ram a solo driver cheating in the carpool lane. There are so many cheaters doing this, that I have been tempted to ram a few, too. But I have two problems: my moral conscience and bad luck!
One of these days, I'll park somewhere and I'll walk there with my camera and take photos of all of them and post them online. They are always the same people at the same time; it's getting really frustrating.
A Whoa. I understand your frustration and get many, many complaints about solo drivers using carpool lanes at onramps across the Bay Area. The CHP may pay an occasional visit, but don't make matters worse or put yourself at risk by trying to block these cheaters or getting out of your car and taking pictures of them.
Q I get on Interstate 280 at Bird Avenue going northbound in the morning. My understanding is that all the northbound metering lights would be activated later this year through San Jose. Is this still on schedule?
A Yep. Caltrans expects to turn on seven meters from Highway 101 west to I-880 within a few months and one will be at Bird Avenue.
Q Heading east on the Bay Bridge just before the toll plaza, there's what appears to be an aircraft control tower. I was told that it, along with this part of the freeway, was a backup for Alameda Naval Air Station. Now you've got me thinking after writing that some people mistakenly think our interstates were designed to allow military aircraft to land. Is this tower really used to monitor just automobile traffic?
A Yes. This was a room for observing traffic through the toll plaza. The floor below is where the metering computers were kept.