If you’re one of the 80% of A’s fans who drives to games, you just might get a quicker trip to the Coliseum in the future, thanks to a flurry of new road projects that Caltrans is starting this year.
According to Mr. Roadshow, the Bay Area is getting $5 billion to be spread among 19 projects. While none are in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, the bulk of the work (12 projects) will be in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. Key among them are the extensions of carpool lanes along the Nimitz:
- I-880 from Hegenberger Road in Oakland to Davis Street in San Leandro ($108 million)
- I-880 from CA-237 in Milpitas to US-101 in San Jose ($31.5 million)
The South Bay project is less expensive than the East Bay project because most of the groundwork was already done for the former as part of a previous 880 widening project a decade ago. Combine these two with ongoing improvements to the Nimitz and improved interchanges at CA-92 and CA-262/Mission Blvd., and it should eventually be much smoother sailing in each direction for carpoolers, who are the usual profile for those who drive to games in Oakland.
If the A’s move south, the carpool lanes, along with at least 4 lanes in each direction the entire way between Oakland and San Jose, will help funnel gameday traffic. However, it’s not a complete, direct solution. Once a driver coming south along 880 hits the 101 interchange, the freeway will revert to not having carpool lanes, which could create congestion there and along surface streets as they try to make it the last two miles. A good way to go might be the Gish/10th Street exit on 880 South just before 101, as it’s a quick detour to downtown and SJSU.
The big ticket item is $2.3 billion for the 10-mile BART extension from Warm Springs (its own separate project) to Berryessa in North San Jose. Again, it’s not a direct trip to Cisco Field, but it’s a lot closer than Fremont and the only way to get to downtown San Jose is to first build to Berryessa.
Not related to Caltrans funding is one more big mass transit project, Caltrain electrification. The long-awaited conversion from diesel to electric trains will create an opportunity for more frequent service, which will drive down the operating cost per trip and help keep Caltrain solvent. To achieve this, Caltrain cut a deal with the state’s troubled high speed rail authority to devote $700 million towards the electrification project. To support the more frequent service and greater number of riders, the San Jose, Millbrae, and San Francisco stations will be expanded. The $1.5 billion project is expected to be completed by 2020. HSR is teetering right now politically, so it’s not clear if that project will ever be built. This money shift appears to be an acknowledgement by the authority that it may need to start in the most heavily impact areas first, before it commits to the full intra-state backbone. The move could backfire in the long run, as it may convince stakeholders and citizens that high speed rail would be best if it terminated in San Jose, not San Francisco.