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Is this I-680 or the Donner Pass?

Original post made by Jeff on Sep 29, 2010

Journal Entry
September 29, 2010

I'm writing this in case I do not make it. My family and the world need to know how our last days were spent trapped on the freeway trying desperately to reach the new Toll Lane in Sunol. We were promised a faster commute, but have been stuck in a level of hell only surpassed by those waiting in line to audition for American Idol.

Like many others, I joined the long line of cars creeping along 680 south at the Bernal entrance. We crept along listening to reports on the radio of congestion extending north to the Oregon border. We measured our commute not in miles, but in inches. By day 2, I had made it as far as the Sunol Blvd exit. I toyed with the idea of getting off the freeway and returning home to my family. But my job beckoned and promises of commute nirvana up ahead in the new toll lane kept me queued in the long line of frustrated drivers.

By day three, all the food and water I could scrounge from my car and along the side of the freeway were gone. Other commuters and I started talking about sending a scouting party ahead on foot to see if there was an overland route we could take. 4 brave souls struck out in their wingtips and ties, but they returned 1 short later in the evening. The details of their harrowing trek will be the stuff of legend if this journal survives. The lost member of their party will be remembered as a hero due to his actions to save the others. We are still not clear as to what occurred, but the survivors seem to imply commuters further south had turned to cannibalism due to the lack of food and coffee. The three remaining members did manage to bring back his Bally wingtips and leather belt. We may try to eat those later.

By day 5, the smell along the freeway was fetid and rank. Most cars had run out of fuel, so the drivers were pushing their vehicles anytime the long string of cars inched forward. Only those driving hybrids seemed to still have power, but none of them were as well armed as the many SUV drivers, so they were easily overrun and their fuel supplies taken. Armed gangs began terrorizing the weakened commuters. Barter systems were setup, people trading bags of airplane peanuts for a few ounces of fuel. I tried a desperate attempt to hike back up the freeway to home, but was forced back into my car by a roving band of Caltrans workers threatening anyone who dared to leave their car and not experience the glory of the Express Lane.

Day 7 dawned over the Eastern hills. I was delirious from the lack of sleep, hunger, and Starbuck's withdrawal. I was awake most of the night fending off a horde of what my little community of commuters called "tollbies" - similar to zombies, but without the insatiable appetite for human flesh. Tollbies had lost their sense of humanity and reason, seeking only to experience the FasTrack enabled rush of Express Lane joy. These poor lost souls wandered down the freeway in small groups between the camps of stranded motorists, waving their FasTrack transponders in the air hoping beyond all hope for that reassuring "beep" signaling they had reached the Promised Lane. My encampment used our laptops and spare tires to create crude barriers to keep the Tollbies from overrunning us. Our latest plan for rescue involves tying a note to a dead cell phone and seeing if we can throw it at a passing ACE train, but we hold little hope any rescue is on it way.

A few of our group have scouted the Northbound lanes for any sign of rescue, but were met with resistance from those stuck in the miles long backup from the evening commute. Small wars are now occurring between the North and South bound commuters as the Northies try to claim the southbound HOV/Toll Lane. The Northies feel they are justified in their seizure since their commute has been horrendous for many more years than the Southies and they have never benefited from a HOV lane. All hope of reconciliation, rescue or free flowing traffic appear to be abandoned.

If anyone reads this, please tell my family I love them. My Blackberry is almost out of battery power, so this will be my last entry. I only hope they have FasTrack in heaven.

Comments (20)

Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:40 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Good write-up. I can hardly wait for the movie to come out....thank God (and us taxpayers) for shovel-ready projects!


Posted by Traci, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:58 am

This so made my morning. Thanks


Posted by Salty Sally, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:01 am

Not to worry. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown will take care of the problem if he is elected Governor. During his first stint as Governor, he stopped most freeway projects dead in their tracks. Do you remember the unfinished I680/I280 and 101 interchange in San Jose that went unfinished for about 20 years after he stopped freeway construction dead in its tracks? Do you remember how he transformed CalTrans from the best in the country to a laughing stock? Do you remember the time before Moonbeam Brown when California had the best roads in the country? If Moonbeam gets in, most freeways in the state will seem like Donner Pass.

Vote wisely in November!


Posted by Maggie, a resident of Valencia
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:18 am

Remember - it is now against the law to text while driving - even if you are stuck in traffic. Get over it!


Posted by Diane, a resident of Valencia
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:23 am

Jeff, this is very funny and well-written! Thank you for the clever commentary. Do you (or should I say, did you :)) write for a living?


Posted by member, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

Loved it! Anxious to read next journal entry.


Posted by Jeff, a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:35 am

Diane - no, just a hobby. Thanks for the kind words.


Posted by laughing, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

Thanks for the laugh!


Posted by Alex, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:38 am

This was the funniest thing I read all week. I cracked up at the part about the devoted Cal- Trans workers. Keep em coming!


Posted by Lois, a resident of Siena
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

Absolutely hilarious.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Downtown
on Sep 30, 2010 at 9:54 am

I needed a good laught today, I was in traffic right along side of you. What I don't get is they make it sound like traffic is bad until you get to that "great new toll lane" people it was always backed up, the new lane is not adding any value. It clears up after you pass 84 entrance. Just give us a carpool lane going North please!!


Posted by Lee, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:12 am

Loved it!! Hilarious!! And yes, we need a carpool lane going North ASAP!


Posted by momof2, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

LOVE IT!


Posted by Steve, a resident of Stoneridge
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:27 am

Even before the carpool lane opened, the trip from Sunol to Milpitas was the fastest part of my commute. Now that it is opened, I see few cars using the "express" lane, and I am usually able to keep up with the cars that do use it. I don't understand how allowing a few cars to pay for a lane will speed up traffic, but perhaps it's all about providing those that aren't bothered by spending $2.50/day a quicker commute.


Posted by rhubarb, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 30, 2010 at 10:56 am

So what happened to the whole "oh it's only slowed down because of unrelated accidents" propaganda? Have the caltrans apologists abandoned this defense for the traffic?


Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm

If the Sunol grade ever does get heavy traffic again, and as a consequnce people start paying to use the lane, what do you think the effect will be of mixing carpoolers (typically conservative drivers) with toll payers (typical A type people where every second counts)? One wants to arrive safely and other wants to set land speed records.

Not to worry, the express lane has wide shoulders. More then enough room to clear the wreckage out of way.

Use to carpool for several years. One day, the guy driving, was being followed by a jerk in a black Nissian Titan pick-up truck. A solo driver in the carpool lane. We were traveling around 70mph and this guy was within inches of our rear bumper. He passed us going down the grade towards Mission Blvd, gave us the finger, and re-entered the carpool lane speeding up to probably 90mph. License plate was SXPRTY (why did DMV let this one through?). When we got to our exit, Mission Blvd south, this guy was only three cars ahead of us, stuck waiting in the 680/Mission exit lane.

Even traveling the entire distance of the toll lane, the time saved between 65mph and 35mph is only 10 minutes. Kind of like traveling to LA on I 5, passing a truck doing 70mph while the truck is at 60mph, traveling down the road for 2 hours, stopping for gas, and by the time you have filled up, the truck has passed you.


Posted by Resident mom, a resident of Stoneridge
on Sep 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Protest the toll lane by not using it, maybe they will see what a failure it is, and let everyone use it. Keep the roads free for everyone, and speed everyone along. I am sick of the traffic on Foothill Road when people get off 680 due to traffic. The lack of an A period at Foothill High School, just adds even more cars to Foothill Road every morning. Now we just need it to rain...


Posted by sam, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

great article. so glad that i read this after writing an angry letter to CALTRAN.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Stoneridge
on Sep 30, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Right on "Resident mom". Not only am I too cheap to use the toll lane, but I would never give them the satisfaction.

First, they don't build any new roads, so traffic jams force us into mass transit, then they act like they sympathize, and allow single drivers another lane, but in reality they just want more money.


Posted by Extended Resident, a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Sep 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I LOVED reading your entry! Keep the dream of your family alive and trek on! Here's to working from home!


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