Bay Area Traffic

Changes planned on Bay Bridge S-curve

Thursday, October 15, 2009
An overturned Safeway big-rig blocked westbound traffic on the Bay Bridge. CHP officials say the driver, who suffered a bruised leg, was driving 55 mph in the 40 mph zone and did not know the speed limit had been changed. He said he had not driven over the bridge since before Labor Day and was taken by surprise by the S-curve. (ABC7 Photo) Bay Bridge accident bay Bridge, Safeway truck, overturned, accident

Caltrans is preparing to make major changes at the new S-curve on the Bay Bridge to avoid the six-hour tie-up caused by a big-rig crash on Wednesday.

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The new S-curve have been in use for about 38 days and during that time there has been 33 accidents on it. That is not a very good ratio and Caltrans is doing something about it.

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The crashed Safeway 18-wheeler shut down four of the upper deck's five lanes just as rush hour was beginning and it caused epic delays for thousands of motorists.

Caltrans says its traffic engineers followed state standards for curves like this one, so the signage for the 40 and 35 mile an hour speed limits should be adequate.

"The signs are sufficient now, this isn't mountain driving. This is a basic S-curve you could encounter anywhere on California freeways. But obviously there's a problem with people's attention in this area," said Bart Ney from Caltrans.

The CHP said there have been 33 crashes on the S-curve since it was installed over Labor Day weekend -- 22 on the eastbound lower deck and 11 on the upper deck.

Caltrans says it planned for more signs and possibly a textured road surface well before Wednesday's accident.

"Just about any other area in the state and this nation you'd come into S-curves like this and they're easily navigable at 40 mph. But in this case, we've seen increased issues here and we're trying to think of everything else we can put out there," said Ney.

"The vast majority are slowing down and following the signage. It's just those 33 individuals who haven't," said Officer Shawn Chase from the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP says it has had four extra units patrolling the bridge since the new curve opened.

"Because actually when you see a CHP unit wherever it is you're going to slow down, that's the first thing I do, check the speedometer and see what it is," said Officer Chase.

Alex Jefferies went eastbound across the bridge last night and ended up spending more time than expected shopping.

"I went over the Bay Bridge last night at 6:50 p.m., 6:30 p.m. I was going over to IKEA and hadn't heard about the truck so I got over there and thought God, there's a lot of traffic and I'm like, Oh,"" he said.

He's all for more S-curve warnings.

"I think the surface probably would be a huge help and I think people would slow down for that. You can't structurally change it. It's too big a deal to close it, so people have to learn to live with it," said Jefferies.

The S-curve is part of a temporary structure that will be driving on until Caltrans completes work on the new Bay Bridge. But temporary is a relative term because we are talking about three to four years before that work is completed.

The changes coming to the Bay Bridge are:

  • Large yellow signs with a curved arrow will be installed Thursday night.
  • Radar activated signs will be installed before the end of the month. They will show drivers how fast they are driving.
  • Reflective "rumble strips" might possibly be installed to get drivers' attention and get them to slow down.
All these changes were planned before Wednesday's big accident.

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