Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – School Traffic, Obscured Sign, Lights in Downtown Concord + Much More

August 5, 2013 14:00 pm · 21 comments

Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every Monday at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.

Email your questions to

COMMUTER: Back to School is approaching. I just noticed CVHS (Charter School) is returning to school August 14 (watch out Ygnacio Valley Road and Alberta/Pine Hollow).

The rest of Mt. Diablo and Walnut Creek School districts return August 28.

Our traffic will return to its (unfortunate) norm. Nothing like 45-minute commutes down YVR from Claycord to Walnut Creek. Treat doesn’t even offer too much of a relief option either, during school session.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer is grateful to you, Z-Man, for providing the dates when children will be returning to the various schools. Claycordians all, let’s be sure to keep an eye out for children on their way to school and observe those signs mandating slower speeds when children are present.

Readers, you are often generous with information. Maybe some of you have clever ways to make an end run around the traffic mess? If so, feel free to share.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Great news! DogMom kindly shared with us a photo of a totally obscured sign overrun with vegetation in Concord on Ayers road, adjacent to the Pixie Playschool, almost at the corner of Concord Boulevard.

The Jammer told Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari about it and, viola! Or is that voila? Regardless, here’s the good news:

COMMUTER: I am attaching a photo I took today of the no-longer-totally obscured sign. I knew that writing to you would get results, but this was faster than I expected! Thanks!!!



COMMUTER: Driving on Galindo from Clayton to Concord Boulevard and wanting to turn left onto Concord Boulevard. If you get a red on Clayton you can see the green on Concord Boulevard to turn left. Clayton turns green and by the time you get there Concord Blvd turns red. WTH.

You can go further to Willow Pass to turn left and this has the shorter left turn lane, which backs up to the traffic lane for those who want to go straight.

Why is it that traffic can’t flow from the green on Clayton to the left turn on Concord Blvd with two left turn lanes?

–Why Oh Why?

TRAFFIC JAMMER: WOW and Antler both posted about this, with Antler explaining a further complication caused by this setup. The Jammer shared WOW and Antler’s concerns with Traffic Czar Kuzbari, and he is looking into it. More news as it breaks!

COMMUTER: I am still shook up from a near-crash and hope you can help. I sincerely want to know what I should have done differently.

I got on northbound Interstate 580 at the Hopyard Road entrance in Pleasanton. It’s a gnarly merge because the freeway is ALWAYS congested when I get on. The right lane is moving at maybe 25-30 mph and the cars are close to each other. Plus, it’s a dedicated turn lane so as soon as I get into it, I have to get out of it.

I merged into the right lane and then put on my left turn signal to merge into the lane immediately to my left. The cars in my lane were moving around 25-30 mph and the cars in the lane to the left were zooming along probably at or near the speed limit.

The coast was clear ahead of me. So I looked over my shoulder, saw no one coming and accelerated rapidly into the lane on my left.

In the quick seconds in which I was looking over my shoulder, a car merged directly ahead of me and slowed to a stop with its right-hand turn blinker on, attempting to get into the far right lane.

I slammed on my brakes and came within three inches of the car’s bumper. I was terrified.

I guess I should not have accelerated so fast? Or perhaps I spent too much time looking over my shoulder? I know that when you rear-end someone, it’s always your fault … so I’m willing to accept that I should have done something differently.

–All Shook Up

TRAFFIC JAMMER: What a scary story – the Jammer is so glad you weren’t hurt, ASU! The Jammer turned to our pal, the anonymous Claycordian law enforcement officer who generously donates his time and expertise to help with questions like yours.

Here’s what he had to say:

Hmmmm. Could be that part of the problem is that 580 runs east/west. Nyuck. Nyuck. Nyuck. But it’s true.

Another misconception is that rear-enders are ALWAYS the person in back’s fault. Arguably that’s generally true but there’s a small percentage of illegal lane changes, abrupt braking, or impeding traffic issues.

Ok so let’s directly address this scenario. It sounds like the driver did everything right. From his/ her description of the other car I would consider the impeding traffic rule:

22400. (a) No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law.

I think this law is under-enforced. We see this all the time: drivers block straight or thru lanes because they didn’t make it to the turn lane. Well, your “need” to turn does not supersede someone’s right-of-way to go straight. Go to the next or block exit and turn around: you missed your turn. Face it and move on.

This is one of my favorite tickets. And for the person that allows these drivers to nose into line: you’re really not doing anyone any favors.

The key word is merge. And that’s more art form than objective. Folks just don’t seem as patient as days of yore I try to avoid these type of merges if I can.

That being said, and remembering the overall driving mantra of driving defensively, the commuter did not crash. That’s worthwhile. And, yes, maybe next time don’t accelerate quite as rapidly with the seemingly wide open road ahead.

Today’s quote: “Better to give-up your right-of-way than to be dead right”. — driver’s ed teacher.

COMMUTER: Why is it taking 100 years to complete Highway 4? It’s ridiculous.

–Good Taxpayer Money

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Good Taxpayer Money, the Jammer loves your handle. To answer your question, the Jammer contacted Jonathan Adams, the Caltrans media representative designated to handle the Highway 4 construction.

Adams responded quickly with good news:

“The Highway 4 work is on schedule. The current anticipated completion dates for the different Highway 4 corridor widening projects are as follows (subject to weather impacts):

  • Loveridge Road – early 2014
  • Somersville Road/Auto Center Drive – Fall 2013
  • Contra Loma Boulevard/L Street – mid-2015
  • Lone Tree Way/A Street – late 2015
  • Hillcrest Avenue – late 2015

The Highway 4 projects include improvements to the entire project corridor that will help revitalize eastern Contra Costa County. The projects expand Highway 4 from four to eight lanes between Loveridge Road and SR-160, and add a BART extension from Pittsburg to Antioch (eBART).

The projects will also expand the highway from two to four lanes from Lone Tree Way to Sand Creek Road.”

TRAFFIC JAMMER: .Additionally, the Jammer has discovered a truly rockin’ website dedicated to the construction on Highway 4.The site is at It has photos of the work going on, and traffic updates, and lots of verbiage about the various Highway 4 projects. You can sign up on the site to get construction news.

You can also go to Twitter and follow @4eastcounty for tweets updating you on developments. The information line for the project is (925).756-0721 and the email address is

TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by at 2pm for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.

Send your questions to


1 aka August 5, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Traffic around CVHS is horrible when school is in. I live in the neighborhood next to it off Academy Rd. This neighborhood has no other way in or out. The school drop off and pick up traffic empties on to Academy Rd. and makes a horrible mess. These people think they have the right to block the road making it miserable for us who live in the neighborhood and have to leave to get our own kids to school or to get to work. Not to mention the other traffic that block Academy Rd. on Alberta Way. There is even a sign that says DO NOT BLOCK INTERSECTION but no one pays attention to it.

2 anon August 5, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Bring back School Buses and Stop having kids coming from Pittsburg to Concord schools and 80% of your school traffic problems will be solved.
Make school start time at 8:30am so that they won’t be competing with people going to Work.
You are all deluded regarding Hwy4. It will not solve Anything once completed.

3 Dashcam DVR August 5, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Rear end Commuter – get a dashcam. Don’t be a victim of insurance scams. V1000gs, V2000gs or GS1000

4 Laura Zah August 5, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Will all of you who travel through the 4 way stop at the intersection of Marsh Creek & Center St. in Clayton please learn the simple right of way rules? Please! I’m so sick & tired of nimrods stopping and waiting for me to arrive & stop before they dare to go through, or even worse, they just sit there & wave me through. JUST GO! And when 2 cars arrive at the stop at the same time the right of way belongs to the car ON THE RIGHT! This stuff is simple. Get it together!

5 Anon2you August 5, 2013 at 3:11 PM

That sign still looks obscured to me…I will look for it on my way home tonight, I know where this is and I have never, ever seen this sign…

6 aka August 5, 2013 at 3:20 PM

@ Laura, This happens to me at almost every 4 way stop I come to . I hate it so much.
Also people need to learn what the center lane with arrows pointing each way means. So many people do not use it as intended. Especially in front of CVHS

7 Wilder Road Rage August 5, 2013 at 4:17 PM

@ Laura Zah and aka: There are plenty of people who drive up to a 4-way stop at 40 mph looking at their phone. I’ve also seen people blow right through, figuring everyone else is going to stop, right? Sorry, I’m not going to move until I see some indication that the person in the other car is 1) looking at the road and 2) slowing down.

8 La Grinch August 5, 2013 at 4:25 PM

To the Anonymous Claycordian Law Enforcement Officer:
I know that posting information on this site about the correct way to do things is a little like preaching to the choir, since anyone conscientious enough to read this blog isn’t the target audience, but it really made my day to see that a law enforcement person likes giving out tickets to idiots who block traffic for an unplanned lane change instead of going around the block. And to point out that letting them cut in does no favors – that is a bold statement, and I couldn’t agree more.

9 Judge Roy Bean August 5, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Concord Blvd and Deckinger rd Concord hs side. Light is obscured by tree branches.

10 Laura Zah August 5, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Wilder, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m approaching the stop @ 25 mph & begin obviously slowing, while the timid driver just sits there staring at me until I’ve come to a dead stop, I wait…. then they go, unless of course by that time other cars have arrived at the stop and it becomes a cluster screw up with 2 or 3 cars all trying to go at the same time. Being overly cautious or refusing to take your right of way causes problems.

11 Sick & Tired August 5, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Ever since the city repaved the roads around the area of John Muir hospital in Concord, the stoplights that cross over Port Chicago stay green WAYYYYYYY too long (the light on Salvio where it crosses Port Chicago is a great example). It’s been like this for around a month – can’t they fix it already, so everyone else can get to their destinations in a timely manner?

12 Frank August 5, 2013 at 7:42 PM

@ Anon2you
Don’t worry about seeing this sign….it no longer serves any purpose.
Several years ago, before there was a complete re-do of the Concord B. & Ayers Rd. intersection (during which the traffic signals were added) the right turn onto Ayers from outbound Concord B, was TWO lanes onto Ayers. These two lanes narrowed to 1 lane in short order and the sign advised a merge to the left, as the right lane ended. Since the intersection rework, there is but one lane turning onto Ayers, making the sign pointless.
I spoke with the city code enforcement department and informed them that the sign no longer served any purpose & suggested that the city should consider removing it. The portion of the roadway that was previously a traffic lane is now a bike lane & room for the County Connection bus stop.

13 Janis Mara August 5, 2013 at 7:51 PM

@aka #6, that is a great point:

“Also people need to learn what the center lane with arrows pointing each way means.”

Look for some elaboration in the Jammer’s next column!

14 Really? August 5, 2013 at 10:02 PM

The answer to that obscured sign problem was to cut a few of the palm fronds so that the sign can “peek” through? Comical at best! That tree is obviously in an inappropiate place and needs to be fully removed. What happened to common sense in this world?

15 Frank August 5, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Really @ 14
So are you are in favor of destroying a living thing rather than getting rid of a useless relic of a sign? Really??

16 nytemuvr August 6, 2013 at 1:23 AM

@Anon2you #5
I remember that sign when they put it in…..’69 or ’70 (when they widened Concord Ave.), let us know that was the end line of drag racing down Concord. Ave. from Denkinger or road racing the back roads before there were very few houses yet. Different times….long time for that sign to be there.

17 Random Task August 6, 2013 at 11:42 AM

all the bad drivers …the not knowing what to do…..the too scared to move ….the ones who cut you off….the ones who have no idea what right of way is …….the ones who can not merge …the ones who have no idea what is going on around them …….the ones who text and drive 5-10 miles under the speed limit because they obviously can not and supposed to not do 2 things at once ….the ones who wait at a light for 2 minutes and then proceed at 2 miles an hour through the intersection in a 35 zone…..the ones who blink left and turn right ………the ones who drive 5 miles under the speed limit with 10 cars behind them and have no worries in the world ……..THESE AND MORE ARE ALL COURTESY OF THE DMV AND ITS OBVIOUS NOTION OF TAKING MONEY INSTEAD OF PUTTING SAFE AND KNOWLEDGEABLE DRIVERS ON THE ROADS………..the DMV is the proud child of the dems who run this state …….they have done a bang up job …..don’t you think

18 @Frank August 6, 2013 at 6:12 PM

That tree sits directly in the public right of way, encroaches the bike lane and blocks the sidewalk and sign. Clearly it is an offshoot thst sprung up through the cracks and should have been taken out before it ever got so big. It does not belong. REALLY.

19 Ms. Jean August 6, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Janis, many school sites serve breakfast, usually beginning about 30 minutes before school starts. Parents can drop their children off, be sure they have a good breakfast, and still get off to their jobs on time. Parents can call their particular school for more information and exact times.

Please be patient with the people who are helping you to drop off and pick up your children safely. I volunteered in this capacity for many years, and I learned some very colorful words and phrases – all yelled within earshot of young children. Don’t expect to speed through the drop-off circle when you’re already 5 minutes late for the bell. You can be sure there are 30 other people just as late as you are!

You can also park a few blocks away and stroll onto campus with your child, starting your day with some peaceful conversation and a good-bye hug. These precious times will go by much too quickly, enjoy them while you can.

Be careful, everyone. The life you save may be your own.

20 Frank August 6, 2013 at 7:02 PM

@Frank, Really
There is NO sidewalk to block, the sign is meaningless & if you cannot safely maneuver a bicycle past the area, perhaps you should consider not riding a bike. Let it go.

21 Janis Mara August 7, 2013 at 12:55 PM

@Ms. Jean #19, what a lovely post! Rather disconcerting to read about the colorful language, as you so tactfully put it, yelled in front of children. Your comment reminds me of a tangentially related issue – people who just have to have a parking spot immediately in front of their destination. I’ve seen people circle the parking lot 19 times to get a space right in from of THE GYM.

I mean, they’re going to the gym for exercise, yes? So why not consider the walk from the parking spot a warmup?

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