Bay Bridge meter lights speed up for FasTrak

Commuters could see traffic relief on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as early as Nov. 5, transportation officials said today. A timing revision to the Bay Bridge metering lights to make FasTrak-only lanes cycle faster than cash-only lanes is expected to decrease the traffic that can back up from the toll plaza to the MacArthur Maze during peak hours, according to John Goodwin, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman.

Currently in place is a single-timing schedule for FasTrak- and cash-only lanes, which significantly clogs traffic once the metering lights are turned on at around 6:15 a.m. daily, Goodwin said. The change will be about a second and is designed to move traffic through the FasTrak-only lanes more quickly, according to Goodwin.

“The adjustment is going to be slight,” Goodwin said. “It’s entirely possible that further revisions may be necessary. This is not a magic bullet. We want to make the toll plaza operate as efficiently as possible for everyone.”

Since the number of FasTrak-only lanes on the Bay Bridge increased following major construction during Labor Day weekend, traffic on the bridge during off-peak hours has lessened significantly, Goodwin said.

“What we’ve seen consistently since Labor Day weekend is early in the morning hour when traffic is building up, you get backups in the cash-only lanes, and traffic in the FasTrak-only lanes zips right through,” Goodwin said.

However, once the metering lights are switched on between 6:15 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., traffic begins to snarl and “the FasTrak point is lost,” Goodwin said.

“To the greatest degree possible we want to keep that flow going that we get in the early morning hours,” Goodwin said. “We hope to achieve that with the metering lights.”

Approximately half the peak-hour traffic uses FasTrak, according to Goodwin. He added that FasTrak-only lanes can process three times as many cars in an hour as cash-only lanes. In addition to altering the metering lights, California Department of Transportation officials will be installing moveable tube barriers, called delineators, between lanes to prevent drivers from switching lanes at the toll plaza, Goodwin said. The delineators are set to be installed in early November as well, weather permitting, Goodwin said.

Prior to the Bay Bridge alterations, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge will be adjusting its carpool lanes and installing signs to direct vehicles with three or more axles to the far right lane when passing through the toll plaza, according to Goodwin. Beginning Monday, carpoolers will be able to use the No. 6 lane in addition to the No. 3 lane, Goodwin said.

“The idea is to spread carpoolers more evenly not only through the toll plaza but through the approach as well,” Goodwin said.

Signs may be installed as early as Friday to remind drivers of vehicles with three or more axles to use the far right lane, Goodwin added.

— Bay City News

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