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Day 6 of 680 Southbound Toll Lane Crisis

Original post made by Bill on Sep 27, 2010

Journal Entry
September 27, 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 desparately 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 cannibilism 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 terroring the weakened commuters. Barter systems were setup, people trading bags of airplane peanuts for a few ounces of fuel. I tried a desparate 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.

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. Please tell....

Comments (22)

Posted by Michael Leonard, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:56 am

Michael Leonard is a registered user.

Traffic from Sunol Blvd past 84 is certainly worse than it used to be. It is now the 2nd week of the toll lane and traffic is still bad.

I went through at 9:30 today. The problem is with the traffic merging from 84. There is a lot of it and a short merge lane. After the 84 merge traffic picks up. It did slow at the Washington St. bend and again at Mission today.

The lane striping was up for weeks ahead of time so I don't see getting used to the new lane being an issue. I didn't see cars trying to dodge across the lanes.

Not having the lane open up to all traffic after 9am is a problem and so is losing a lane. I'm not sure how they justify keeping it a toll lane all day.

So far this toll lane is a bust.

Posted by Anne, a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 27, 2010 at 11:11 am

I took a hike this morning up the beautiful ridge. When I got to the "zen bench", I looked out over our glorious valley to see the traffic on 680 barely moving along. So much for the faster commute lane! Fortunately I don't have to commute that route every day. Whoever thought this was going to work should rethink this! All this mess for the sake of the almighty dollar...maybe if no one used the pay lane, they would open it up to everyone.

Posted by steve, a resident of Birdland
on Sep 27, 2010 at 11:14 am

Great way to get your point across. It is a freeking mess and a total waste of millions.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I think the local politicians have asked KKIQ not to mention the I 680 backup in their traffic reports. Today was a really bad back-up and not a word from the radio station traffic reporter. Hopefully these politicians are frustrated enough that they will start listening to people who have commuted the Sunol grade for 15 to 20 years. We all know what is needed to make the commute easier and more efficient and would have certainly cost less then 200 million spent on this fiasco.

Question – why was Scott Haggerty and Ellen Corbett late to the kick-off ceremonies for the Express lane? (SF Bay Area 511) has phone call and online assistance for planning trips in the Bay Area. They will give estimated travel times based on the traffic conditions. Taxpayers pay for this service and politicians evidently do not use it. Go figure.

Posted by Occasional 680 user, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for keeping us up to date on the "CalTrans money pit". I usually use 680 to AutoMall to Dunbarton to get to Stanford once a month for 8 am meetings. Guess I'll be taking the 580-238-880-94-280 route from now on...seems faster than working my way through that mess.

Posted by LOL, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Loved your post...I hope you get home soon to see your family and recharge your Blackberry. Glad my hubby uses an alternate route to get San Jose on the days he has to drive in. He really enjoys going in at night when there hardly any traffic/

Posted by Devon, a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Sep 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

You people need to understand one thing: This toll lane was not built to speed up your commute. Its purpose is to raise more funds for the state through toll. The number of lanes did not change.

Now it's even worse because those carpoolers who need to exit Auto Mall do not use the lane since there is no break at that exit. That pumps more traffic onto the non-carpool lanes, which leads to more traffic, which leads to more congestion. All that means is more people will have an incentive going on the toll lane and fork up their hard-earned $. Caltran guys are smarter than you think.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:05 pm

The traffic at the 84 merge is already at capacity. That means the traffic cannot enter the freeway or express lane any faster then it does now. So if you do the math, 1025 cars x 260 commute days x $2 average toll = $533,000. This is a little more then half of what is needed to maintain the express lane toll equipment and enforcement according to the I 680 Express Lane fact sheet.

Posted by Stupid system, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Once again Caltrans and our local genius politicians have done a great job of spending money for no benefit. I travel the 680 every day on a motorcycle. The new toll lanes have not only made it way more dangerous. But have used up real estate that could be used for another lane. When they were building this I was thinking wow...... Same care pool / pay for use lane and an extra lane for all the good folks in cars.

No they painted the extra lane with stripes. WHO the hell is running the show... sorry... probably the same people who have traffic lights turn red on you in pleasanton when your the only car at the intersection. Then they tell you its a spare the air day..... duhh... we get it cause we are all on the 680 parking lot running our engines...

Its pathetic. You pay tax then they build a lane with your tax... then they tax you to use it.

Posted by Arroyo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Don't like the way things are being run in Sacramento? Change your voting habits in November and beyond...The political party who has run the legislature in California for decades needs replacement.

Posted by Arroyo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2010 at 6:12 pm

That was great. While I was reading Day 6 of your "Journal," I couldn't help but want to play the "Theme For The Common Man." Perfect music for your Journal.

Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Anybody interested in a late night lane painting party?

I've got a couple cans of white paint and black paint. We can extend the carpool lane entrance back another 1,000 feet before the 84 merge and help alleviate some of the backup.

Posted by Arroyo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Why not paint the new point of entry with alternating Red, White, and Blue stripes?

Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Because as patriotic as that may be I have little to no faith in my fellow American drivers' abilities and am convinced that would only cause greater delays.

Posted by BART rider, a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Okay, now this toll lane is affecting the people on 580 - Damn, that backup both ways - east and west are a mess. I never saw 580 going east back up, but it was backed up this morning and it was due to all the people going towards 680 south.

What a mess - what idiot thought this would work? Probably someone who does not drive the freeways. I would like to know what politicians decided to build this so I can donate to their rival.

Posted by Swami, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Sep 28, 2010 at 7:07 am

Thanks for the great post, Bill!
Pleasanton Parent, the thought of pushing back the toll lane start does sound really good - except it may further increase the length of the jam behind the 84 merge for the non-toll-paying folks.
Stuck with this for now.

Posted by Devon, a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Sep 28, 2010 at 8:44 am

Someone should take this to the press so they can do their investigation and make a lot of fuss. Someone from Caltran needs to take the heat for this idiotic toll lane.

Posted by dood, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2010 at 10:03 am

today, i drove 680 south for the first time since the change. i hoped by now, any newness and confusion would have been sorted out. people seemed to know what to do and how to proceed, but overall, things are much worse like everyone is saying. the traffic was backed up from bernal to 84. what a waste of time and money. after 84, traffic opened up, but it seemed like the carpool lane was less used than before. do we get any real data on this? or do we only get politician speak how they are improving things for us?

how much did this cost by the way?

Posted by Bill, a resident of Birdland
on Sep 28, 2010 at 10:24 am

Write to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to express your thoughts on the new toll lane. Scott Haggerty is the head of the Supes.

Posted by Macro, a resident of Dublin
on Sep 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm

We need to do something about it. Bring to press and have them to investigate, call/write to Supervisors, legal action. I called Scott Haggerty office a few days ago. We shall all call/write to them at least once a week. Without pressure, they won't act.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Wrote to Dan Noyes at ABC news. Maybe he can embarrass Caltrans and the local politicians into fixing the mess they have created.

Heavy traffic today was partly due to an accident at the 84 merge. Thank you CHP for clearing the cars out of lanes quickly.

Posted by Avoiding SB680, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

I wrote Sal Castaneda at KTVU about it too. Whatever planner thought this up should be forced to use SB 680 during morning commute, until it eases up.

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