FAIRFIELD — Motorists getting on the local stretch of eastbound Interstate 80 next week will get a kind of dress rehearsal for ramp metering lights.
Ramp metering lights since 2011 have sat unused from Red Top Road to North Texas Street. Starting Tuesday, the eastbound I-80 lights will turn on for the first time to deal with the afternoon rush hour.
But the lights will be green the entire week, according to the state Department of Transportation. That means motorists will be able to get on the ramps and go, as usual.
“There is a period of adjustment,” Caltrans spokesman Vince Jacala said.
That’s for both the motorists and Caltrans, he said. The agency will have crews in the field to monitor the metering lights to make certain they work properly.
Then, the week of Feb. 24 to 28, the era of metering lights within Solano County will begin in earnest.
The lights will be still be green Monday through Thursday during afternoon rush hour, unless there is a freeway accident or other unusual condition that creates heavy traffic. But, during Friday afternoon rush hour, the lights will alternate between green and red, acting as a stop light on the ramp to force vehicles to enter the freeway at intervals.
Friday afternoon rush hour from 2 to 8 p.m. has the worst traffic conditions and warrants using the lights, Caltrans studies show.
Metering lights will be activated at nine eastbound I-80 locations. These ramps are at Red Top Road, Highway 12 from Jameson Canyon, Suisun Valley Road, Chadbourne Road, Auto Mall Parkway, Beck Avenue, Travis Boulevard, Air Base Parkway and North Texas Street.
One local eastbound I-80 onramp signal will remain turned off – the one on the ramp leading from Interstate 680. Local transportation officials have said that vehicles are already metered at this location on Friday afternoons just by the sheer amount of traffic congestion.
“That one’s in the future,” Jacala said.
Ramp metering lights, though new to Solano County, have been used in Southern California for years. The Los Angeles/Ventura area has about 900 ramp metering lights, according to Caltrans.
Jacala said the purpose of the metering lights is to space out traffic, so vehicles don’t enter the freeway bunched closely together. That makes it safer for the vehicles merging and for the vehicles on the freeway, as well as improves the flow of freeway traffic, he said.
Some local motorists have expressed concern about the metering light on the connector between eastbound Highway 12 in Jameson Canyon and eastbound I-80. Motorists approach this area at highway speeds, unless traffic is heavy enough to slow them down.
“We have looked at it closely,” Jacala said. “We anticipate it will work just fine.”
This is to be just the beginning of ramp metering lights in Solano County. A second proposed step is activating ramp metering lights along both eastbound and westbound I-80 from Redwood Street in Vallejo to Interstate 505 in Vacaville, possibly in early 2015.
A final step would be to activate ramp metering lights in the remainder of the county, when money is found to install the lights, according a Solano Transportation Authority report.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.