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Caltrans prepares for impact of BART strike

1997 BART strike doubled delays during peak hours

The California Department of Transportation is preparing for the possibility of a BART strike and the impact the estimated 355,000 displaced riders would have on an already congested highway system in the Bay Area.

As part of an agreement with the city of Oakland, the California Highway Patrol and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, Caltrans would convert the West Grand Avenue on-ramp to the Bay Bridge to a carpool and FasTrak access lane only.

The on-ramp would only be converted to the alternate use between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Only vehicles with three or more passengers, as well as buses, motorcycles, commercial trucks, and those with FasTrak would be able to use the lane.

Caltrans spokeswoman Brigetta Smith said that, in the event of a strike, the department will also be monitoring traffic and could extend the operating hours for carpool lanes on highways in the region, particularly on the busy Interstate Highway 80 corridor.

Caltrans will also be deploying field personnel to adjust metering lights at on-ramps and at the Bay Bridge, and activate changeable message signs with useful traffic conditions and travel information.

Tollbooths will also be fully staffed during commute hours.

"All we can try to do is manage traffic a little differently," Smith said. "The reality is most of our facilities are at capacity during commute times already, and any addition you make to the already congested traffic is going to make things worse."

The 1997 BART strike doubled delays during peak hours on several well-traveled routes.

Commuters are encouraged to plan ahead and carpool, and to use public transit and flex hours where possible.

The Bay Area's 511 Rideshare program has seen an increase in interest because of the looming BART strike, according to program spokesman Kit Powis.

"Definitely people are interested as far as what their options are," Powis said. "We're certainly telling people that carpooling is a great option."

New carpoolers to the program can register by going online to http://511.org and clicking on the "Rideshare" link. The 511 RideMatch Service provides a free list of travelers seeking carpool partners who live and work nearby.

BART would also keep its station parking lots open for carpoolers during the potential strike.

Dan McMenamin,Bay City News

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