Caltrans has initiated the first part of their Phase II State Route 4 (SR4) freeway ramp metering project (Caltrans press release). The goal of the project is to reduce merging traffic collisions which significantly impact freeway congestion. The other goal of the Project is to provide marginal benefits in travel times on SR4. In Martinez, the Project includes Alhambra Ave, Center Ave, Morello Ave and nearby Pacheco Blvd on-ramps.
The ramp metering hours are from 5:00 am to 9:00 am for the morning commute and 3:00 pm to 7:30 pm for the evening commute. The westbound on-ramp meters were turned on October 17th. As expected there are little to no traffic impacts on the three Martinez ramps for the westbound direction due to little or no traffic congestion during the hours of operation in the westbound direction of SR4.
Caltrans is scheduled to initiate ramp metering in the eastbound direction on October 31st. Traffic congestion is significant during commute times in this direction especially for the evening commute. Traffic will be held up on the ramps and metered one car every 6 seconds. As the ramps begin to fill with cars waiting to enter the freeway the cycle frequency automatically increases up to one car every 4 seconds. This is to ensure cars will not back up on City streets.
It is expected there will be a two or three week learning curve for motorist. Back-ups may be greater than expect during this time. City staff and Caltrans have planned conference calls subsequent to the implementation of their Project to discuss problems and successes with the program.