Monday, September 19, 2005

Solano County freeways best-flowing traffic in the Bay Area.

Solano highways see increase in congestion

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Solano County freeways saw congestion rise by 9 percent in 2004, but still had the best-flowing traffic in the Bay Area.

Those are among the findings in a newly released freeway congestion report by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and state Department of Transportation.

Caltrans each year drives vehicles on regional freeways to see how fast traffic is moving. It defines a delay as speeds falling below 35 mph for 15 minutes or more. It then figures out the total hours drivers waste fighting traffic on an average weekday.

The report estimates drivers lost 2,830 hours daily to traffic on Solano County freeways in 2004. That's up from the 2,600 hours in 2003, but down from the 3,700 hours in 2002.

And it's nowhere near the congestion experienced in other Bay Area counties. Drivers on Alameda County freeways experienced 50,540 hours of traffic delays daily. Drivers on Contra Costa County freeways experienced 18,520.

Across the region, the number of hours drivers lost to congestion rose by 4 percent in 2004. Transportation leaders think they know why.

"A brighter employment picture put more workers onto Bay Area freeways last year," MTC chairman Jon Rubin said, in a press release.

That same trend may be continuing this year, he said. Congestion statistics for 2005 will be available early next year.

Caltrans needs to respond to the traffic increase by managing the freeway system more efficiently, Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi said. He mentioned such things as ramp metering, changeable message signs with accurate travel times and the FasTrak toll collection system.

MTC and Caltrans also listed the top 10 traffic "hot spots" in the Bay Area. No Solano County location made the list.

The most-congested Bay Area location is the morning approach to the Bay Bridge on Interstate 80. Drivers last year experienced 10,080 hours of traffic delays daily there.

Solano County's "hot spot" is at the interstates 80 and 680 interchange at Cordelia in the evening, according to the report.

This is where Highway 12 and Interstate 680 merge into I-80. People driving the stretch of I-80 from the interchange to the California Highway Patrol truck scales faced a total of 840 hours of traffic delays daily in 2004.

The second-worst spot was along northbound I-680 in the evening just before the interchange. Drivers here faced 620 hours of delays daily.

But conditions have changed since much of that data got collected. Caltrans in fall 2004 opened new lanes along a 2.5-mile stretch of I-80 near the Cordelia truck scales. The goal was to make traffic here flow better.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Daily Vehicle Hours of Delay on Bay Area Freeways

Alameda County - 138 miles of freeway, 50,540 hours.

Santa Clara County - 137 miles of freeway, 22,910 hours.

Contra Costa County - 87 miles, 18,520 hours.

San Mateo County - 73 miles, 9,550 hours.

San Francisco County - 19 miles, 9,490 hours.

Marin County - 28 miles, 7,410 hours.

Sonoma County - 55 miles, 5,320 hours.

Solano County - 79 miles, 2,830 hours

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