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Council Moves Forward on I-80 Ramp Metering, Traffic Controls

The El Cerrito City Council Tuesday night approved a multi-agency agreement that adds specifics and secures remaining state funds for a $93-million project for ramp metering and other traffic controls on the adjoining stretch of Interstate 80.

The El Cerrito City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a multi-jurisdiction plan to install ramp metering lights and other traffic contols on the local stretch of Interstate 80.

The council voted to accept a proposed Memorandum of Understanding for the project, adding the city's official endorsement to an agreement already going forward for the $93-million I-80 Integrated Corridor Mobility (ICM) Project.

The project, initially approved by the council in 2007, would add freeway on-ramp metering and various incident management techniques to improve traffic and emergency response on the section of I-80 between the Carquinez Bridge and the Oakland Maze.

The Memorandum of Understanding approved by the council Tuesday night is required for allocation of about $45 million in remaining state funds and to address specific issues that have arisen in the planning and public reaction to the plan, according to the staff report presented to the council. (A copy of the report is attached.)

One concern has been that the project and ramp metering could cause traffic to spill out onto San Pablo Avenue.

"The project will not actively divert freeway traffic to San Pablo Avenue," the report says. "However, freeway traffic will continue to overflow onto San Pablo Avenue and other local arterials as it has in the past during major incidents on the freeway. When that happens, the project is designed to flush out freeway traffic that naturally diverts to San Pablo Avenue back to I-80 past the incident location. This will be accomplished through the use of special signal timing plans (called flush plans) and trailblazer signs (directional signs). By improving travel time on I-80, freeway traffic is encouraged to stay on the freeway."

As for concerns expressed in several jurisdictions about ramp metering causing traffic back-ups on adjacent streets, the report says, "The project was designed to include end- of-queue detection along each on-ramp. These detectors will be used to monitor and contain the queues within the on-ramps. Once queues extend beyond the queue detector, the ramp meter rate will increase or rest on green to avoid queuing that obstructs local traffic flow. In addition, Caltrans will work with each jurisdiction to make any necessary adjustment to the metering rates during the roll-out period for the project."

Council members expressed enthusiasm for the plan.

"I think it will be very well received," said Mayor Bill Jones. "... There's going to be a start-up period and fine-tuning period, but I think long-range ... you'll find people very receptive."

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