Proposal to draw down S-curve traffic enforcement

A decision will likely be made between two proposals that were put forward at the committee's meeting in March, one that would gradually lower the amount of enforcement over the course of the year and another that would quickly lower it to normal levels by the end of May, MTC spokesman John Goodwin said.

The S-curve, a temporary portion of the bridge that was installed last Labor Day weekend as part of the replacement project for the bridge's eastern span, was the site of dozens of crashes in the weeks following the reopening of the bridge.

Goodwin said there were 47 crashes on or near the S-curve between Sept. 8 and Nov. 11, including one that killed a 56-year-old Hayward man who was driving a big-rig when he lost control and rolled over a 3-foot guardrail, falling about 200 feet to Yerba Buena Island below.

California Highway Patrol officials said at the time that the big-rig driver, Tahir Fakhar, was driving 10 mph above the speed limit when he crashed.

In the days and weeks following that crash, the CHP increased patrols on the bridge while Caltrans added additional speed warnings, flashing radar signs, a higher roadside barrier along the curve, rumble strips, clearer lane striping, and also closed lanes in the area during non-peak hours.

As a result, there were only 25 crashes in the area between Nov. 11 and Feb. 28, a reduction to 0.23 crashes per day from the 0.85 rate prior to Nov. 11, Goodwin said.

However, the enforcement measures have been expensive, costing about $660,000 per month to do the lane closures and increased CHP patrols, he said.

That money has come out of a $900 million contingency fund for the Bay Bridge project.

The decision on how to draw down the enforcement will be made at the committee meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at Caltrans headquarters in Sacramento.

"Speed is down, safety is up, but the question is will speeds remain down even when you don't have the lane closures, when you don't have CHP on site in big numbers at all times," Goodwin said.

Goodwin said recently installed speed sensors embedded in the roadway will allow Caltrans to monitor in real-time if speeds on the S-curve are increasing.

If the decision is made to end the lane closures and patrols by the end of May, the money saved would be put toward spot enforcement in the area if authorities see a spike in speed or the accident rate, he said.

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