South Bay to get longest metering hours in Bay Area

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For the first time ever, metering lights will be switched on between Interstate 280 and U.S. 101 in the South Bay, with the longest operating hours in the entire Bay Area.

The South Bay economy is booming and with it, traffic is getting more congested along Highway 85.

So for the first time ever, metering lights will be switched on between Interstate 280 and U.S. 101. The southbound metering lights will be turned on Wednesday for the afternoon commute, then one week later for the northbound on-ramps.

Those northbound metering lights will operate starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 11 a.m., which is about two hours longer than any other metering lights in the Bay Area.

"With one lane being the high-occupancy vehicle lane, it's just more and more cars in those narrow two lanes, and I don't think we have a choice but to accept metering until 11 a.m. because otherwise how else do you regulate it?" asked Amitabh Ghatak, a Los Altos resident.

Some drivers are accepting the change, while others are skeptical about the need for more metering lights.

"The traffic's so slow, I don't really know if you need more metering because it's so slow merging. I don't think it's a problem because everyone's crawling," said Patricia DaCosta.

The region's Metropolitan Transportation Commission considers the extension of metering lights to 11 a.m. a sound plan and a precursor of things to come.

It cites the Eastbound 80 approach to the lower deck of the Bay Bridge. A traffic study released this month says traffic crawls here at 35 MPH or lower for seven hours on weekdays, starting at 1:25 p.m. and lasting until 8:30 p.m. So rush hour in several Bay Area locations is getting longer and longer.

The congestion, as well as the back-ups caused by metering lights, are just creating more driver frustration.

"I get frustrated at all the interchanges where I'm dealing with metering lights and then the people cutting in and out of traffic around it, and it's all just frustrating to me," Dawn Vitielli, who lives in Santa Clara.

The Bay Area already has 474 metering lights. 170 more are scheduled to go into service later this year.

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