Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Driving on the Shoulder, CHP on 680/24, Emergencies in the Caldecott + More

December 16, 2013 14:00 pm · 14 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

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Last week’s column included a video of cars driving on the shoulder on westbound Ygnacio Valley Road to avoid the backup leading to Ayers Road. These cars circumvent the backup before making a right turn on Ayers Road. The item gave rise to questions from a couple of Claycordians:

COMMUTER: I would like to point out that if you are on a road where the shoulder has been turned into a de facto turn lane, and you aren’t on that shoulder, then you are not going to be able to turn. Now, what are you going to do?


COMMUTER: My question exactly. What are you supposed to do if you want to turn right, but others have turned the shoulder into a right turn lane? Janis, can your law enforcement friends tell us what to do?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Our resident Claycordian law enforcement officer came through for us again and gave this response:

“It’s a tough situation when you’re the only sane voice in a cacophony of screams, which is a poetic way of saying the only law-abiding driver in traffic.

The answer is pretty simple, though: signal like you normally would and safely make your move. I have found that with a little patience and some inching in the general direction, folks will let you over.”

This time of year, often folks are out of town visiting relatives or taking time off from work for holiday activities; has the backup on the shoulder decreased any with the holidays, Claycordians?

Now, continuing another thread that began last week:

COMMUTER: Janis, I’d like to see the California Highway Patrol park and monitor the evening commute at Highway 24 and Interstate 680. Talk about dangerous! Too many people cutting in past the solid line dividing the split causing brake checks and near accidents. So bad it’s setting the example to the majority that it’s OK to cross a solid line, which is illegal.

As much as you leave space to be safe and to react, someone darts in, so it’s always dangerous. A CHP ticketing these jerks on occasion would be helpful for all of us who traverse this interchange in our evening commutes. Maybe next week can address this?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: TOB, you make an excellent point regarding the Highway 24 and I-680 interchange. As you say, it’s scary during the evening commute. Just one thing, to get picky about a detail, crossing the solid white line isn’t against the law, though it sure isn’t a good idea. Our friendly law enforcement officer elaborates:

“On crossing solid white lines. Crossing them is generally discouraged. And when it comes to freeway merges there’s the gore point: the triangular island that separates the ramp from the freeway. If you cross that, you’re subject to Vehicle Code Section 21651.”

Readers, Section 21651(a) says, “Whenever a highway has been divided into two or more roadways by means of intermittent barriers or by means of a dividing section of not less than two feet in width, either unpaved or delineated by curbs, double-parallel lines, or other markings on the roadway, it is unlawful to do either of the following:

(1) To drive any vehicle over, upon, or across the dividing section. …”

COMMUTER: Are there any more Caltrans workers, such as tow truck drivers, based at the Caldecott Tunnel since the 4th bore opened? Are they based there 24 hours? Is it hard to stay awake?

Just curious how they handle traffic problems that occur now inside the tunnel. Thank you.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer ran these intriguing questions past Ivy Morrison, who is Caltrans’ Fourth Bore Guru. She obligingly answered in detail:

  • Caltrans constructed a state-of-the-art Operations & Maintenance Control (OMC) building as part of the Fourth Bore Project. The OMC serves as the “nerve center” for monitoring traffic, air quality and other conditions in four Caldecott tunnels, as well as the Webster-Posey Tube in Alameda County.
  • The OMC, which is a state-of-the-art facility, will continue to be staffed 24/7 by trained tunnel operators. The operators monitor tunnel conditions, and also ensure that the systems are implementing the appropriate responses. The tunnel operators also work with first responders in the event of a security or safety issue in the tunnel. For example, firefighters would communicate with tunnel operators about which jet fans should be activated in the event of a tunnel fire.
  • The tunnel operators have a very important job to perform and must stay alert at all times. There are three shifts in a 24-hour period and two tunnel operators per shift.
  • Tow trucks are not typically stationed at the Caldecott Tunnel. Tunnel operators would call in tow trucks from the near by Bay Bridge tow truck depot, if needed.

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 J. December 16, 2013 at 2:05 PM

They should have a tow truck on standby at the Caldecott Tunnel. It’s just too important.

2 Sacto Rob December 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM

re: the westbound Ygnacio/Ayers right turn lane issue: Cruising past all those cars waiting on the shoulder then trying to safely pull into the line of cars just by signalling and slowing down sounds like an excellent recipe to be rear-ended.
Easy for the cop to say, but it’s not like we’re all driving around in patrol cars with light bars on top.

3 anonanonagain December 16, 2013 at 2:29 PM

It seems more and more drivers are not following the rules of the road and are putting so many of us and themselves at risk. It would be fantastic if more tickets/citations were given to people driving like imbeciles. Or better yet, send them to traffic school to actually learn the rules of the road and how to drive. As people feel the laws don’t apply to them the risk of injury or death goes up…..

4 Cowellian December 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Those last-second lane changes are a dangerous game. A few years ago, a girl traveling on Highway 24 decided to cut across the gore point between the ramps for I-680 and got clobbered by a truck in the process. If I remember correctly, all three people in her car were killed.

5 Lucy December 16, 2013 at 3:26 PM

As for the Ygnacio/ Ayers issue……it is illegal for cars to pass on the shoulder, over the Solid White Line. That is an Emergency Lane only. You may NOT drive in it. It is for Emergency parking only. I have wanted so many times to just pull over and STOP with my hazards on and see what the idiots do that try to use the shoulder as a road way ( I would’nt but I have thought about it) I know someone that got a big fat ticket driving in the Emergency Shoulder. Whats a whole 2 or 3 minutes that you have to wait? Is it worth an accident or a ticket??

6 Anonymous December 16, 2013 at 3:31 PM

Two thoughts: The CHP parked watching for people cutting the gore would result in two things: No one doing it and people slowing down to look at the CHP probably causing accidents from time to time.The CHP is well aware of these violations, but its tough to enforce. Main thing for them is to do more good then harm.CHP has had as few as 5 Officers to cover the entire county, and its tough to justify having a dedicated Officer to monitor one area..

One poster asked about de faco right turn lanes. Ain’t no such thing. If you pass on the shoulder its a ticket. Once something becomes a de facto turn lane it takes only a few minutes before everyone is using it. Many, many tickets have been written for this, including whole groups of drivers.

The good thing about writing the tickets for shoulder passing is the law abiding drivers that pass and give the Officer a little toot of the horn., For them its like watching someone cut in line in front of you at a theater.

7 Reality Check December 16, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Just ignore the excess crap and drive!

8 @Stupid December 16, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Of all the stupid things….hmmmmm, I need a job…………

9 ANON December 16, 2013 at 4:59 PM

“Those last-second lane changes are a dangerous game. A few years ago, a girl traveling on Highway 24 decided to cut across the gore point between the ramps for I-680 and got clobbered by a truck in the process. If I remember correctly, all three people in her car were kilED.”

The law is there for a reason………..

10 680/24east interchange December 16, 2013 at 5:07 PM

Not just the evening commute! I commute this area in the mornings and can assure you that even in counter commute traffic, drivers fly down the fast lane all the way until just before the interchange then abruptly cut across all lanes to take the 680 south lanes. And of course they cut people off snd nearly flip their own cars in doing so. I guess they assume since all the CHP enforcement must be conducted in the commute direction that they are able to get away with this. And we are talking about speeds above 85 to achieve the reckless behavior.

11 Julio December 16, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Now that the Somersville Road intersection at Hiway 4 in Antioch is finished we have a new breed of lawbreaker. Going east in the evening they come hell bent off Hiway 4 scream across at 50/60 mph across Somersville Road intersection and back up on to the freeway. In the mornings going west the same thing happens. We desperately need the CHP before people are killed.

12 nytemuvr December 16, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Are there cameras in the other tunnel bores now too?…does that mean no more High RPM engine checks in the tunnels anymore?(For engine tuning changes of course, not hot rodding).

13 Janis Mara December 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM

Hahahahaha @nytemuvr #12 “for engine tuning changes of course….”

14 Anon December 17, 2013 at 9:25 AM

“Are there cameras in the other tunnel bores now too?…does that mean no more High RPM engine checks in the tunnels anymore?(For engine tuning changes of course, not hot rodding).”

CHP has to catch them doing it– camera will do no good & yes people go thru there at 100 MPH + when they can

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