Campaign Seeks Hybrid Lane on Richmond Bridge

Advocates for less congestion on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge led by the Bay Area Council recently launched the Common Sense Transportation Coalition to campaign for an environmentally-friendly traffic solution. Traffic heading westward, towards Marin County on the bridge during the morning commute has become one of the worst commutes in the region.  Even during the worst days of the pandemic, when traffic was erased throughout the Bay Area due to stay at home orders, you could still open a live traffic map and see “green” freeways everywhere, but one spot.  The tell-tale color coding of “red” and even “black” representing totally jammed traffic approaching the Richmond San Rafael Bridge.

It used to be bad in both directions (heading to Marin in the morning and heading to Contra Costa on the lower deck in the evening).  But in 2019, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)  re-opened the old third lane on the lower deck.  The afternoon-evening back-up vanished.  In fact, in a 2020 study by Caltrans touted that the added lane removed 700,000 vehicle hours of delay, A DAY!

The morning commuters were not so lucky.  MTC and Caltrans launched a “pilot” bike lane on the upper, westbound-deck, in its old third lane.  The bike lane is always open, and the unfortunate morning commuters must jam from three lanes on the freeway, down to two lanes on the bridge.

The result is obvious. Massive traffic jams. And, a huge amount of emissions and particulate matter concentrated in an economically-challenged area with a high level of people of color.

According to MTC, which tracks the number of bikers and pedestrians on the bridge every single day since the 2019 launch, at 5-6 am there is one bicyclist, 6-7 am there are 4 bicyclists, 7-8 am there are 6 bicyclists, and 8-9 am there are 7 bicyclists; for a total of 18 bikes during the morning commute.  At the same time, nearly 40,000 cars and trucks are trying to cross.‍

The Common Sense Transportation Coalition proposes a third hybrid lane for the bridge, by using the already existing moveable barrier and zipper truck, similar to the Golden Gate Bridge success story, to have the lane serve as a car or carpool and bus lane during the four peak morning hours, and then revert to a bike lane during the rest of the day, and all day during weekends. The 18 bikers could use commute vans during peak commute hours.

The traffic congestion forced on Richmond including on local streets and roads, results in poor air quality in surrounding neighborhoods and longer wait times for many working-class Bay Area residents. Not only has this become an environmental and public health issue, but it is an issue impacting our region’s economy and workforce.

That’s why we helped form The Common Sense Transportation Coalition to ask Caltrans and transportation planners to create a third hybrid lane as a traffic solution for drivers and cyclists. Click here to view the Coalition’s website, read our position paper, and sign the petition.

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