The Interstate 680 commute across the Sunol Grade ranked as the fourth-worst Bay Area commute in 2017 for the second year in a row, according to the annual most-congested list compiled by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
For the third straight year, the I-580 commute in the Tri-Valley did not rank in the top 10 worst commutes compared to the rest of the Bay Area, but three I-580 segments in and around the Tri-Valley did appear elsewhere on the top 50 list.
Overall, the MTC reported that traffic congestion delays leveled off in 2017 after commute times worsened for four consecutive years from 2013-16.
"The good news here is that the average Bay Area commute hasn't gotten any worse," said Rohnert Park City Councilman Jake Mackenzie, who is serving as MTC chair. "The bad news is that it hasn't gotten any better either."
Bay Area drivers faced an average of 3.6 minutes of congested delay last year, matching the record high set for the region in 2016 and representing an 80% increase from the 1.9-minute average delay in 2010, according to the MTC. "Congestion delay" is defined by MTC as time spent in traffic moving at speeds slower than 35 mph.
For 2017, the Tri-Valley area made five appearances on the "50 worst commutes list."
Tops on the local list was the I-680 commute from the South Bay up toward Pleasanton at No. 4. The northbound segment from Scott Creek Road in Fremont to Andrade Road in Sunol between 1:55-8:20 p.m. saw a daily delay of 6,280 vehicle-hours.
One other Tri-Valley route ranked in the top 10: The northbound afternoon commute on I-680 from Sycamore Valley Road in Danville to Buskirk Avenue/Oak Park Boulevard in Pleasant Hill came in at No. 10. That marked an improvement of two spots from its No. 8 ranking the previous year (5,950 vehicle hours delay in 2016, compared to 4,500 hours in 2017).
The eastbound I-580 afternoon commute into Pleasanton ranked as the 14th-worst -- from Crow Canyon Road/Grove Way in Castro Valley to Hacienda Drive in Pleasanton. The similar commute was 10 spots better the year before, ranking 24th in 2016.
The westbound morning commute from the San Joaquin County line to the lane drop west of Grant Line Road in Livermore finished 24th. The segment dropped from its 17th position in 2016 (when the segment was measured from the San Joaquin County line all the way to Hacienda Drive in Pleasanton).
And in 44th was the I-580 evening commute from First Street to the lane reduction east of North Flynn Road in Livermore.
As for the overall rankings, consistency seemed to be a theme -- certainly at the top.
Each of the top four worst commutes retained their position from the year before, including I-680 northbound toward Pleasanton.
Topping the list for the fourth year in a row was the afternoon slog on northbound Highway 101 and eastbound I-80 from Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco to the Bay Bridge's Yerba Buena Island Tunnel, where commuters collectively logged an average of 14,600 vehicle-hours of delay between 12:30-10:30 p.m. each weekday.
Staying in second place was the westbound I-80 drive from Highway 4 in Hercules to the Bay Bridge toll plaza -- all day, from 5:25 a.m. to 6:55 p.m. In third again was the afternoon commute on southbound Highway 101 from Sunnyvale to San Jose.
Rounding out the top five was the eastbound afternoon drive from Highway 4 in Martinez to Port Chicago Highway in Concord, which jumped up five spots from its 10th-place ranking in 2016.
The rest of the 10 were all afternoon commutes: eastbound I-80 from West Grand Avenue in Oakland to Gilman Street in Berkeley, southbound I-880 from Union Street to 29th Avenue in Oakland, I-280 southbound from Foothill Expressway in Los Altos to downtown San Jose and Highway 24 eastbound from Oakland to Orinda through the Caldecott Tunnel.
Half of the top 10 worst commutes were in Alameda County, and more than three-quarters of all congested delay in the Bay Area last year occurred on freeways in Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties.
"There's no question that our freeways haven't kept pace with the bustling economy," Mackenzie said. "We have more vehicles on the road getting people to and from their jobs, more buses taking people to and from work, and more trucks making more deliveries. This highlights the need for more affordable housing closer to jobs, for better transit options and for key infrastructure projects."
He also used the timing of the MTC ranking release to criticize Proposition 6, the statewide ballot measure that would eliminate the recently approved gas tax and vehicle license fee increases. He argued that key congestion-relief projects, like I-680/Highway 4 interchange improvements in Martinez, would lose funding and could be suspended if Prop 6 passes at the polls next week.