Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Port Chicago Hwy., Transponders in HOV Lanes + MORE

May 5, 2014 14:00 pm · 20 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: I have a few questions specific to Port Chicago Highway between Olivera and North 6th.

Why is it illegal to make a right turn on red at the 6th/Port Chicago and Olivera/Port Chicago intersections? The only reason I can think of at Olivera/Port Chicago is there’s a bus stop right there. Not so at North 6th. Is there a general policy for prohibiting a right on red?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: For these questions, our ever-reliable Officer Leo, the generous law enforcement officer who lives and works in Claycord, literally went out of his way to investigate. Here’s his response:

“OK, I did a drive-through today at both intersections. To be specific, I went westbound toward the airport both times. My suspicions were correct.

So, let’s get the principle straight: Right turns against a red signal (circular light) are generally OK after a legal stop. The exceptions are facing a red signal arrow (you can never go in the direction of a red signal arrow) or a sign prohibiting such a turn.

There are usually two reasons why right turns are prohibited or limited on red signals.

1) Traffic flow.  Sometimes, U-turns are allowed on the cross street and this would interfere with the right turns. Sometimes, the traffic study shows that right turns interrupt the flow of traffic to the degree that the prohibition makes more sense for the prevailing traffic conditions.

2) Limited visibility. Drivers wanting to turn right cannot see as far to their left as they think they can. There is limited visibility for on-coming traffic, so right turns against a red signal are prohibited.

#2 appears to answer the writer’s questions. In both cases, there is a slight (almost imperceptible) bend on Port Chicago Highway.  Also, the BART tracks run parallel to Port Chicago.  These factors allow for limited visibility.

If a vehicle approaching the intersection is traveling at 30 mph, that’s 45 feet per second. A driver can only see a few hundred feet down Port Chicago at these intersections. By the time the driver sees the seemingly clear roadway and pulls out, an oncoming driver would be right on top of the turning vehicle.

It’s worth noting that many communities in Claycord and along the Interstate 680 corridor from the Benicia Bridge to I-580 have restricted right turns … especially around the freeway (think of I-680 and Willow Pass Road and I-680 and Monument as examples).”

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Here’s Ken’s final question:

COMMUTER:Turning off Olivera onto Claudia Drive into the Holbrook Heights neighborhood, there are always cars parked right up to the stop sign. That makes it hard to see when you want to turn onto Olivera. Also, it eats up a lane on Claudia, making it difficult to turn from Olivera onto Claudia, particularly if there are other cars waiting at the stop sign. How would we get the City to mark the curbs in that area as no parking/no stopping zones?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Since this question was a regulatory one, the Jammer consulted with Concord Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari.

“He’s (Ken) talking about parking on Claudia,” Kuzbari said. “When cars are parked on Claudia all the way to the crosswalk, the receiving lane is blocked, so it’s hard to turn onto it,” Kuzbari said.

“We will send someone out to look at it. If there are safety issues, we could do outreach to the person who lives there” about restricting parking, Kuzbari said.

However, “This is residential parking. We don’t want to take street parking from the people who live on Claudia,” the traffic manager said. “Generally, we don’t take parking away from somebody unless there is an imminent safety issue.

“It’s much easier to create restrictions in a commercial zone,” Kuzbari said.

COMMUTER: I hate to belabor a point, but on the HOV/HOT sections, do you have to have a transponder? I don’t use FasTrak since I don’t use the bridges often enough to make it worthwhile. If I drive I-680 at Sunol with three people in the car but no FasTrak, will I get cited? I shouldn’t, but I know with the Golden Gate Bridge you have to use FasTrak.

–Teacher Wannabe

TRAFFIC JAMMER: First of all, actually, Teacher Wannabe, you don’t have to use FasTrak on the Golden Gate Bridge.

If you are OK paying $7 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, instead of the $6 discount FasTrak fee, there are options other than having a FasTrak transponder. You can choose license plate options. Details:

Now, here’s California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill with the answer to your other question. As most Claycordians probably already realize, we’re talking about the toll lane on I-680 near the Sunol Grade:

“HOT lanes mean High Occupancy/ Toll lanes. So, when the lanes are “on”, you either need to pay the toll or have enough people to qualify as High Occupancy (two in this case).

Toll is paid through FasTrak, so if you are a toll payer, you MUST have a FasTrak.

If you’re High Occupancy, no toll is required, so no FasTrak is required either. CHP will not cite drivers in these lanes for not having a transponder IF they are “High Occupancy.” In fact, we won’t even stop you, because you’re doing the right thing (unless there’s something else going on, like speeding or cell phone).

Just to be very clear, you don’t need a FasTrak unless you intend to utilize a toll lane as a sole occupant, or you plan to cross a bridge in the Bay Area as an HOV. Even then, the violation would be not paying the toll, rather than not having the FasTrak.”

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 Dorothy May 5, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Like Teacher Wannabe, I seldom cross bridges but I have found that having FasTrak is handy when I do cross one a couple of times a year. I don’t have to wonder if the toll is the same as last time or even how much. Nor do I have to fumble around looking to see if I remembered to have enough money on me to pay the toll.

2 Anonymous b May 5, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Painting the curb red doesn’t mean that people won’t park there. There’s a red zone in front of my house and it’s a rare day and a rare night when there isn’t someone parked there. Visibility is extremely limited for people turning onto my street from the nearby cross-street, but no one cares. I’ve never seen a single car there be cited, in the 8 years I’ve lived here.

3 Maryanne May 5, 2014 at 3:55 PM

I lived on ida Dr, 2 blocks from port chicaco since 1974 & when they built the north concord Bart station,with the elevated tracks, they made it illegal to turn right onto port Chicago from north 6th for safety reasons as it became hard to see oncoming traffic on your left. Its the same on port Chicago and olivera, but I’ve seen people turn on the red light anyway.

4 Maryanne May 5, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Btw, a friend of mine got a ticket for turning right on the red light and it was $200 and that was a few years ago, motorcycle police park their bikes & watch from the trail on Port Chicago.

5 Ken May 5, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Thanks for answering my questions, much appreciated!

6 oliveran May 5, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Its illegal becus of the bart tracks, there is a blind spot fr pedestrains

7 @Maryanne May 5, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Correct, have seen several collisions over the
years there, some pretty bad. Wish the PD.
was there more!

8 MrDioji May 5, 2014 at 5:28 PM

@Teacher Wannabe:

What do you mean by not using Fastrak enough for it to be worthwhile? I don’t get it. It takes 3 minutes to sign up and it is free. It is always worthwhile. Unless you don’t think you will ever use up the initial $25, which I find would be nearly impossible.

9 Marianne May 5, 2014 at 5:41 PM

There really is a blind spot…

10 Cowellian May 5, 2014 at 5:58 PM

We had our FasTrak for almost two years before we used it. But I can’t imagine crossing any of the Bay Area bridges without it.

11 Teacher Wannabe May 5, 2014 at 7:23 PM

@MrDioji. I had a $5 credit onFasTrak, didn’t use it for a long time and next thing I know my account was being suspended for not “topping it off”, then later I had a -$15 balance. I said screw it, no more. BTW, that was a few years ago when the toll on the San Mateo and Bay bridges was less than $5.

12 me May 5, 2014 at 10:36 PM

whats up with the NASCAR race every morning down Kirker Pass and onto Ygnacio. I live in Concord near Ygnacio and Pine Hollow and EVERY morning cars travel in excess of 75 mph. There are several schools in this immediate area and nothing is done to slow the traffic flow trying to short cut their under funded and under developed highway 4. Additionally we are not getting any additional funding from the community that is utilizing our roads to maintain the extra and excessive traffic load produced by a poorly planned community (Antioch / Oakley)

Please slow the traffic lights on Kirker Pass at the Pavillion to slow their role and get out there and give some tickets. Generate some funds and get the word out. Concord will not stand for it.

13 @me May 6, 2014 at 6:55 AM

How is that any different from everyone using the Oakley/Brentwood/Discovery Bay roads to access the Delta? I do agree with you on the speeding part tho.

I thought about getting Fastrac once. Once!! When I found out that they can just take money out of your account if you don’t use it enough I decided against it. If I put $25 on it and don’t use it for 5 yrs, It should stay there.

14 anon May 6, 2014 at 7:10 AM

“I’ve never seen a single car there be cited,”

Bet you never called the PD–they have people to write tickets on duty,

15 Yellow ranger May 6, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Used to live near the north concord Bart. Had a hydrant on my corner lot, which people parked in front of all the time. During the 2010 World Series parade, our neighborhood was PACKED with Bart riders going to the city for the parade. The person who parked in front of the hydrant wasn’t lucky that day….huge ticket!

16 Janis Mara May 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM

@me #13, could you explain a bit more about the taking money out of the FasTrak account? Thinking this might be worth a call to those folks. Thanks!

17 Anonymous b May 6, 2014 at 2:59 PM

@anon – I gave up calling after the first few years, when I called regularly. They’ve got ONE person who gives out traffic tickets. She’s very nice, but incredibly overworked.

18 NatureGirl May 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM


At the same intersection of Port Chicago and 6th St., I don’t understand why it’s NOT illegal to turn right (from Port Chicago on the downtown side) onto N. 6th. I live on Claudia and hear at least one accident a year from someone turning right onto N. 6th, only to be clobbered by someone they couldn’t see coming down Birch and across Port Chicago.

The house on the corner of Birch and Pt. Chicago (right across from Don’s Market) has a high, solid fence too, which impairs visibility even further.

I never turn right at that red light (it’s a solid red) because I don’t feel confident that I can see someone in enough time to make sure we are both safe.

19 Janis Mara May 6, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Thanks, @NatureGirl #18! Will run your comment by Ray Kuzbari.

20 me May 7, 2014 at 7:34 PM

@me …. @me lol

how many people do you think commute from Co Co county to work in the “Delta”? last I checked these were highways (160 / 4/ 12) that are funded with fed and state tax not local public works money. Ygnacio Valley Rd not. Concord Blvd not Clayton Rd not.

I could care less if you agree. the reality is if they had imposed the correct mello roos tax on all the homes they built out there no one would have purchased them. the builders got over. now we all suffer while they watch from up on the hill.

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