Caltrans and California Highway Patrol officials told a bridge oversight committee today that progress has been made on resolving problems on the troublesome S-curve section on the Bay Bridge but more work remains to be done.
Sean Nozzari, Caltrans’ deputy district director for traffic operations told the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee, “Unfortunately we’ve had some accidents” on the S-curve but he said measures such as enhanced signage, radar speed feedback signs and tough enforcement has reduced the number of crashes in recent weeks.
Bridgett Lott, an assistant chief in the CHP’s Golden Gate Division, said there were 56 traffic collisions between Sept. 8 and Nov. 11 but there only were five collisions between Nov. 11 and Dec. 6.
Lott said the CHP has issued more than 1,000 citations, including 728 citations for speeding and 41 for driving while intoxicated. She said 76 citations have been issued to commercial vehicles.
Lott said the primary factors causing collisions have been driving at unsafe speeds, making unsafe lane changes, following other vehicles too closely and driving while intoxicated.
Nozzari said, “We really need drivers to pay attention to their speeds.”
Lott said many of the intoxicated driving incidents involved people who drove into San Francisco on weekends and at night and then drove back to the East Bay.
The S-curve section is a new, temporary detour connecting the current eastern span to the Yerba Buena Island tunnel.
It was completed over Labor Day weekend and allows work crews to demolish a portion of the original bridge and build a new, permanent connector from the tunnel to the new eastern span that’s scheduled to open to traffic in 2013.
On Oct. 14, the driver of a Safeway truck lost control, crashed and overturned, blocking westbound lanes on the bridge for nearly six hours. About a month later, on Nov. 9, a truck driver carrying a load of pears lost control on the S-curve and went over a barrier, falling to his death about 200 feet to Yerba Buena Island below.
According to the CHP, speed was a factor in both accidents.
The speed limit on most of the Bay Bridge is 50 mph, but the limit drops to 40 mph on the S-curve and a maximum speed of 35 mph is recommended on the sharpest curves.
Nozzari said that in the period between Sept. 11 and Nov. 16, there was an almost even split in the number of eastbound and westbound accidents on the S-curve section, with 28 westbound accidents and 25 eastbound accidents.