01 May 2006

Fremont's traffic situation

When news about the Pacific Commons location came out weeks ago, one of the chief complaints was related to traffic. The idea was that a Fremont-based ballpark would only exacerbate existing commute problems. However, I am here to tell you today that most of that claim is wrong.

Before I go further into "why" it's important to understand how the commute through South Fremont compares to others in the Bay Area. Throughout the dot-com boom era, the routes from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties into Silicon Valley were nearly unbearable. With the bust came relief for many commuters, enough that no part of the East Bay-South Bay commute is on MTC's Top Ten list. That's not to say the area isn't congested - it definitely is - but the picture of gridlock many have painted simply isn't there. It should continue to get better as additional improvements are made in the area. Among these changes:

  • Widening 880 between Mission Blvd (262) and 237. A revamped 880/237 interchange has helped to get commute traffic better separated from Milpitas local traffic, but it's the widening of 880 that will have truly significant effects.

    The diagram above shows the existing bottleneck on the left. Three lanes to handle converging traffic is a recipe for delay. Once widening is completed, 680-based/bound and HOV traffic will be separated from the existing north/south flow. Of course, that relief won't be fully realized until the...

  • Completion of the 880/Mission Blvd interchange. Scheduled for opening in 2008, this new interchange will solve two big traffic problems by providing a direct route for 680-based/bound traffic and by offering a separate exit ramp for local traffic, which according to ACTA, accounts for 45% of the area's congestion. Clearly, the original designers of the interchange had no idea that so much development would spring up around South Fremont.



    There will still be an issue in routing HOV traffic from 880 to 680, but solutions for that issue are in planning stages as well.

The 880/Mission construction project also causes a southbound bottleneck in the afternoon. Once completed, this should be eliminated since traffic is not particularly heavy at that time and in that direction. Along the 880 corridor, the 880/92 interchange would be the one remaining bottleneck. On 680, traffic should be fairly smooth, except perhaps for the area near 580 and Stoneridge.

The end result would be that if you're driving to Fremont from elsewhere in the East Bay for an A's game, you shouldn't be adversely impacted. If you're coming from the South Bay, you'll have to contend with an existing commute backup, but one that will be made much more bearable with the improvements that should be completed well before a first pitch is thrown in a Pacific Commons ballpark. If you're coming from the Peninsula, you'll still have to contend with a bridge.


tony d. said...

Awesome stuff R.M.! That's a cool graphic of the future Mission Blvd/880 interchange. Any chance that Mission Blvd. one day gets upgraded to the long saught after freeway link between 880 and 680? I don't think Caltrans would build such a huge interchange for a simple freeway/surface street connection.

drummer510 said...

Touché, ML, touché. Three and a half hours after I put up my piece and you already have your rebuttle. Let the games begin. Haha.

Even with these improvements it will still take around 30 to 45 min to get to Fremont. Remember that I880 is a bus and truck route.

Wolff wants to tap into the South Bay market, but it seems like it's gonna be annoying for South Bay drivers with that evening Northbound commute.

Marine Layer said...

Sorry drummer510, I haven't read your site today. Now my curiosity is piqued. OK I've read it now. It's always a bad idea to cherry-pick facts and statistics. The 2002 traffic situation has changed significantly in the last 2-3 years. Believe me, my boss makes that commute from Blackhawk to Fremont every day. He should know.

One thing to remember about the South Bay fans - they're typically going to carpool as most driving fans won't be driving solo. So for most of them - San Jose/880 fans excepted since there's no carpool lane south of Milpitas yet - it shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

tony d - The 238-like freeway is not going to happen. It would upset local traffic too much and end up very costly. Instead, Fremont/Milpitas will widen multiple streets to make it a little easier.

tony d. said...

As a South Bay fan speaking for many...we won't let a little traffic get in the way of watching the A's play in a spanking new Pac Commons Ballpark! We could also use 680 North to Durham Road, then head west to Auto Mall Pkwy/Pacific Commons (am I correct R.M.?).

Marine Layer said...

That's the idea. The plan is to widen Auto Mall from 4 to 6 lanes permanently.

Upon further review, it looks like a freeway/expressway-type structure is under consideration on Mission Blvd between 880 and 680. It won't be cheap - $62 million.

Kenny said...

I can't wait until the new 880/Mission Blvd interchange is completed. That thing was built when there were more cows in Fremont than people.

Kevin said...


You mentioned the 880/92 interchange as being a bottleneck. Do you know whether there are any plans to improve that interchange? Right now the east bound 92 conector to north bound 880 is terrible.

Zonis said...

Wow, the Future looks a lot... um... greener!

Marine Layer said...

There are plans to redo the 880/92 interchange, but last November it was reported that cost overruns will make the project cost $134 million. MTC and ACTA are trying to figure out where that money will come from. If funding is found, the interchange should be completed by Winter 2010.

drummer510 said...

ML, I was looking for the most recent traffic stats provided by Cal Trans. The 2002 stats were the most recent that I found, and they in-fact supported my argument, so I featured some of them. I had a link to the District 4 CAL Trans site, so people could check it out for themselves.

The times I've driven down I880 past the Colesium to San Jose or further South, I've found the drive unpleasant and traffic is unbearable at times. I like to call I880 "Mad Max Raceway", with all the trucks, tankers, and insane SUV drivers. But yes, I do not travel on I880 everyday like your boss, so yes my personal experiences and opinions may not be valed. Yet the facts that were I found me showed that since the dotcom boom traffic on I880 had become horrendous, especially during commuter hours and especially around the area of the proposed site.

Unfortunately, I missed over the current highway projects (I will make sure to mention that on my next blog) and I feel they will lighten traffic around those areas. But for how will long?

It seems in California, no matter how many lanes you have or carpool incentives, there will always more cars. My dad has driven through the Caldecott tunnel from Oakland everyday for 25 years and he feels that even if they build a 4th bore, that will only ease traffic for around 5 years, because the population in the Bay Area keeps on growing. Obviously, his experiences are in a different part of the Bay Area, but the principle is the same; the Bay Area will continue to expand and grow, making the highways a constant battle ground.

Marine Layer said...

drummer510, I urge you to check out MTC's site. In December they published a "State of the System" report that provides an overview of the entire Bay Area.

Many highway projects are taking into consideration growth estimates all the way to 2025. They're not conceived in a vacuum. Nothing's ever going to completely eliminate traffic in the area because that's the nature of the beast. But there are plenty of misconceptions about the severity of the problem (especially in the way it's applicable to ballpark-related traffic), and a notion that little is being done about it. Hopefully the post can help dispel many of those misconceptions.

Bleacher Dave said...

What is ATCA?

You continue to impress me with your resourcefulness.

We've come from Salinas, Hollister, Morgan Hill, and/or Campbell for weeknight A's and Warriors games. Traffic is rnowher NEAR what it used to be. I continue to be surprised how relatively easy it is - once we get to the carpool lane at Mission. From the 101/80 interchange, it can be a crawl.

Isn't there a highway traffic maxim that says that more capacity attracts more traffic? Basically, you can never widen your way out of congestion?

Marine Layer said...

ACTA is the Alameda County Transportation Authority.

BD - if Fremont is the site, you might want to use 680 and cut over, since 680 has carpool lane.

Nate said...

That is some great analysis of the traffic situation. As someone who would drive from Union City to Morgan Hill everyday for a couple of years, the traffic patterns have DEFINITELY changed within the last few years. I do not make that drive as much anymore, but there are much fewer people. And the adjustment of the Mission off-ramps will just make the commutes in both directions MUCH easier. The traffic from the Dumbarton onto 880 might be increased however. Same with the San Mateo. Though if I were travelling from the Penninsula to Pac Commons, Dumbarton would be my route. Thanks for all your great work.

Anonymous said...

BleacherDave, Lil's being pretty rough on you over there on OAFC in the "BD Reappazents" thread...Hang in there....Back to the topic at hand - nice job ML, I am starting to think that this may actually happen, that Lew's done his homework regarding the Fremont site, and these traffic studies seem to bear that out...

Oakland Si said...

My main concern is with public transportation access. I'm not sure that developing a site on the assumption that a new BART station may be built -- and even so, not all that close -- is a good idea.

Wolff may well want to tap more into a potential South Bay fanbase. But moving the A's to an area that becomes farther and harder to get to for much of the rest of the fan base doesn't make much sense to me -- unless he has other priorities.

Bleacher Dave said...

Thanks for the tip. I tried 680 a couple times a few years ago, and it was worse than 880. 880 improved once they added that 3rd lane. I'll have to try 680 again - I'll be coming from Gilroy to a focus group the A's are having before Fri nights game. Can you say hooray for hybrid car pool stickers?

It's a free country - Lil's entitled to say whatever she wants. I'm disappointed in her, but I've taken lots worse.

Uncle Lew is an urban developer, I don't really believe he's going to an open parcel in Fremont.