Q I have been traveling south on Interstate 680 to I-580 in rush hour since I moved to Benicia about seven years ago, and I do not understand why the diamond or carpool lane is disrupted between North Main and Livorna Road in the Walnut Creek area. There does not seem to be any real reason for this as the left lane is virtually continuous and doglegs only on the Livorna end. California stresses safety and energy conservation, and discontinuing the carpool lane for about five miles does not help either cause.
Drivers in the right lanes try to get into the extra lane to gain some time at North Main. Meanwhile, cars in the left lane slow to a crawl and are at risk from the rush of late lane-jumpers. Drivers who do have a passenger get reduced benefit both in time and gasoline savings due to this.
I have written several letters to Caltrans asking about this and the usual comment is that "we are studying this." Caltrans has spent a gazillion dollars on both I-680 and I-580 to add carpool lanes in other areas. The cost to do it in the Walnut Creek area would be very low by comparison and could be done in a very short time. Do you have any better information about this?
A Caltrans is now conducting preliminary environmental studies but has not yet earmarked money for construction. The state says this segment may appear ready to continue the carpool lane, but the lane will have to be widened and repaved and drainage installed first. The design work will be completed by 2015 and if money is found, construction would start about then.
Q I just read about the Los Angeles area transponders and am wondering if we can exchange one of our Bay Area FasTrak transponders for the new, L.A. version that can list the number of people in a car. We have one for each of three cars but I drive one of those in the L.A, area once or twice a month. Does that mean I need to delete it here and set up a separate account?
Los Altos Hills
A Keep your Bay Area transponders, but I open a separate FasTrak account to obtain a Metro Express Lanes (SoCal) FasTrak tag. Then you can use the Metro Express Lanes tag in the vehicle used in L.A. You can use it here in the Bay Area, too, but I recommend keeping your existing account for Bay Area bridges and express lanes.
Q When the Highway 87/Alma Avenue offramp was reconfigured, Lelong Street was torn up by the construction vehicles and traffic. Now here we are more than a year later and the street is nearly impassable due to the potholes and patches. Drivers coming from Willow Street to the onramp regularly cross the yellow line in order to avoid placing their tires on radically different pavement and bottoming out. Even the Valley Transportation Authority buses cross over the line sometimes. Is there any hope that this tiny road will get any love from the city?
A The city knows that Lelong is a problem that has gotten worse with the recent rains, but says the fix is not as easy as resurfacing the street. The soil in this area is prone to settling, as it is close to the creek. Residents often complain, as do VTA bus drivers.
The city will soon re-stripe Lelong for a temporary fix and redirect traffic to what one official called the "less worse" part of Lelong. In addition, signs warning traffic to slow down will be posted.
The best approach would be an extensive resurfacing that would last five to 10 years, but that has to be coordinated with the water district in light of the city's budget situation. Stay tuned.
Q I had a question about the Caltrain railroad crossing at Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View. Can I treat the "Stop Here on Red" sign as a stop sign (which is about 100 feet before the light) and then proceed all the way across the tracks up to the intersection if it is safe to do so? The railroad crossing light is a blinking red. People seem to have different interpretations of what to do, but people at least do not stop in the "keep clear/do not block" section.
Q Yes, you can treat the "Stop Here on Red" sign as a stop sign and proceed when safe to do so. Greg-the-Traffic-Cop takes over on one of the more confusing intersections I hear about:
"This reader is referring to the intersection of northbound Rengstorff Avenue and Crisanto Avenue. This is a different intersection because there is extra room past the 'Keep Clear' area the reader mentioned and extra room between Central Expressway and the railroad tracks. The 'Stop Here on Red' signs are posted south of the intersection to stop drivers from overcrowding the 'Keep Clear' area, prevent anyone from stopping on the tracks and keep the intersection clear for the other directions of traffic while the light on Rengstorff at Central Expressway cycles.
"Unless you are making a right turn onto Crisanto, these signs mean exactly what they say: Stop Here on Red. We regularly enforce a bucket full of violations at this intersection because the impatience of many drivers creates extra backups and delays when these signs and others are not obeyed.
"This is a very well-engineered intersection and even with the delays from the train crossing, flow patterns are generous in all directions. Please encourage your readers to follow the rules, obey the signs, be patient and polite to each other."
He adds that drivers need to stop at all three control devices when the light at Central is red.
Q Do you have any information about something I encounter close to home? I usually drive most of my commute on San Pablo Avenue in the El Cerrito area, and for months now we hapless drivers have encountered a lane closure near the Home Depot. It appears to be related to all that work being done underneath the BART tracks.
But it doesn't look like there's been any work in that spot for the longest time. It bugs me that the lane is still closed but no work is taking place. If there's no work taking place why keep the lane closed? Is this a permanent closure?
A No, it's not permanent. This is part of BART's earthquake safety program, and the lane closure on San Pablo will last until the end this month. However, BART says it will need to close other lanes through this spring to retrofit all the columns in that area.
Q A reader named Norm McRae asked if there ever would be an offramp for northbound Highway 101 onto 85 in South San Jose and you replied someday, perhaps, but there are no plans for one anytime soon. But northbound 101 has offramps to 85 in south San Jose. Could Norm have been referring to an onramp for northbound 101 from southbound 85?
Q I got it. You were just testing to see who didn't celebrate too wildly on New Year's Eve.
A That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.
Q I am 78 years old, retired and driving about 40 miles a day. I can't remember my last accident (yes, I had a few in my younger days) or ticket. Oh, never mind: I got a ticket two years ago for parking on the wrong side of the street in front of my house!
A Life can be truly unfair sometimes.