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Reconfiguring toll bridge approaches

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Occidental Tourist:
With Bay Area bridges having switched to fully automated tolling, shouldn’t the extra lanes at toll booths now be pared down to reduce the artificial bottlenecks at those plazas?  For example, coming off the 880 and the MacArthur Maze into the Bay Bridge toll plaza, 15 lanes widen to 20 lanes, which then narrow down to 5 entering the bridge.  When people had to stop to pay the toll, these extra lanes made sense.  But with people able to roll through toll plazas at or near highway speeds, this many extra lanes seem both unnecessary as well as an arbitrary method for unduly continuing to burden Oakland with the full impact of traffic congestion backing up at the plaza that could be being partially shifted both downstream to San Francisco and upstream past the interchanges.

For other toll plazas where there aren’t several highways converging, the need for many additional toll plaza lanes seems even less compelling than at the Bay Bridge.

Other toll plaza arrangements:
Richmond: 3 lanes to 7 lanes to 2 lanes;
Vallejo: 4 lanes to 12 lanes to 3 lanes;
Golden Gate approach: 4 lanes to 8 lanes* to 4 lanes;
Hayward: 4 lanes to 6 lanes** to 3 lanes;
Fremont: 4 lanes to 7 lanes to 3 lanes.

*It appears they only keep 4 to 6 of the toll plaza lanes open and cone off the remainder.

**There are 9 available toll plazas but it appears they keep 3 of them regularly closed.

Have they removed all the toll booths yet?

If they haven't, then it seems that a project to remove toll booths and reconfigure the approaches would eventually be in order at each location.

Absolutely.  There are various degrees of construction at toll plazas that I see here on the East Coast.  Many of the toll booths became EZ-Pass or toll by plate as a COVID measure.  The measure works well enough that, at least here in MD, the toll takers are not planning to come back, even when COVID ends.

In many places, there were plans for open-road tolling.  COVID basically accelerated that.  Ideally, all of the toll booth infrastructure is simply removed and replaced by gantries with EZ-Pass readers and cameras (for toll by plate or toll violation).  MD's Gov. Hogan has been very good about pushing a lot of pro-motorist policies with regard to the tolling.

Obviously, removing the toll booths is not going to happen overnight.  But certainly, the goal in removing the booths would be that there is no need to widen and then reconverge the traffic.  There might be a need to do that during the interim, as drivers do have to slow down through the booths (15-20 MPH).  So if we are talking of 3 lanes of highway on both sides of the booths, perhaps it makes sense to have each lane fan out to 2 lanes while they drive slowly through the booths and then merge back in after the booths to again form 3 lanes.

Here is an article in MD discussing all the steps that they are taking at one plaza.  It is very involved and could probably take many months.  And they have to do the construction work while keeping the highway open to travel.

Any time you're not collecting cash tolls, it doesn't make sense to have more lanes available for toll collection than you have thru lanes on the highway unless the toll collection point is combined with a tolled entrance or exit ramp that is itself delineated with some sort of barrier if traffic using that ramp pays a different toll rate than thru traffic does. I'm thinking of something like this in Virginia (recognizing that it's a toll plaza) where the two lanes to the right are an on-ramp from VA-28 and traffic using those lanes pays a lower toll than traffic coming from the Dulles Toll Road.

My brother was in Florida on business some years back when they were told to evacuate for one of the hurricanes and a major beef he had was that while tolls were waived on the Turnpike, no lanes were closed at the toll plazas, such that people spread out thinking it was a chance to get ahead but then just wound up creating a lot more congestion as everyone had to choke back down. I'm not sure the idea of using two plaza lanes per thru lane really makes sense if traffic volume is heavy. I recall the abandoned Brooklyn-bound toll plaza at the Verrazano Bridge didn't hold up traffic too much, but then a lot of people going through it were used to it and didn't slow down all that much.


--- Quote from: roadfro on July 21, 2021, 09:30:39 AM ---Have they removed all the toll booths yet?

If they haven't, then it seems that a project to remove toll booths and reconfigure the approaches would eventually be in order at each location.

--- End quote ---

At the Golden Gate they're in the process of doing so.  They've already taken out a couple booths in the northbound direction, holdovers from the days when tolls were collected in both directions, but there is also a gantry project in the works to mount all the automated equipment currently in each booth lane which would then enable removal of the booths.  Of course, there has been much consternation over the "historic" nature of the booths and their architectural significance but they could still keep a couple booths for preservation sake and still have plenty of room to have six lanes through the plaza (the same number as on the bridge).  The Benicia bridge already has several boothless/gantry-served lanes which were put in when the second span was constructed so removing the toll booths there should be pretty straightforward.

Unlike the other bridges where there is a single "feeder" freeway to them with a similar number of lanes as the span, the Bay Bridge is an interesting challenge in that, toll plaza aside, there are 11+ lanes coming from three freeways (80, 580, 880) that still have to merge into 5 lanes.  Even if the toll plaza is removed it seems the metering light gantry will need to remain to deal with the merging issue.


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