Richmond-San Rafael Bridge FAQs

Answers to common questions about projects on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Why did the project add a third lane only in the eastbound direction on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge?

Development in Contra Costa and Marin counties along with overall economic growth have resulted in significant traffic increases on eastbound Interstate 580 and the approaches to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, particularly during evening peak-commute periods. At these times, there are significant traffic delays along eastbound Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, with unacceptable level of service conditions occurring at the northbound ramps to U.S. Highway 101, at Larkspur Landing Circle (east and west), and at Andersen Drive. Additional evening traffic congestion occurs on northbound U.S. 101, from the Tamalpais Drive interchange to the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard off-ramp, and continuing onto eastbound I-580. To address present conditions and to accommodate the substantial growth projected to occur in this corridor, the eastbound, peak-period capacity of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge has been increased.

Why is the new eastbound lane only in use during peak commute hours?

Congestion on this stretch of Interstate 580 mainly occurs during the evening commute in the eastbound direction. During other times of the day and on weekends, I-580 does not experience significant congestion on a recurring basis.

Why did the project add a bike path on the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge?

The bicycle/pedestrian path across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge a part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, connecting Marin County to Contra Costa County and beyond.

What does a “pilot” project mean?

The project’s two main components — the new third traffic lane in the eastbound direction (lower deck) and the bike/pedestrian path on the upper deck — are being implemented as “pilot” projects. This means the improvements have been installed on a temporary basis. The performance of the improvements will be monitored for four years. At the end of this pilot period, Caltrans will decide whether to make the improvements permanent, modify them, or remove them.

Why did the project implement a bike and pedestrian path on the Contra Costa side?

Bicyclists are permitted to ride on the shoulders of I-580 between Marine Street and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza. State law requires that freeways with existing bike access maintain that access as part of any upgrade project.

What bike and pedestrian improvements have been made in Marin County as part of the project?

Bicyclists are permitted to ride on the shoulder of eastbound I-580 from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the Main Street off-ramp in Marin County. The project maintains this existing access. Similarly, bicyclists are allowed to ride on Francisco Boulevard to connect to the westbound I-580 off-ramp to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Larkspur. The project maintains this access as well. In addition, the project has constructed Class II bike lanes on either side of Main Street under I-580, connecting the bicycle and pedestrian traffic from the on-bridge path to the San Quentin Village, where the County of Marin has built a sidewalk on the south side of Main Street.

What performance metrics will be used to evaluate the improvements at the end of the four-year pilot project?

A before-and-after study will gather the data needed to make the evaluations. The metrics include: mainline travel time; speeds; delays; congestion duration; vehicle throughput; and travel time reliability. Specific indicators will include:

  • Local street traffic conditions in Marin County and in Richmond (intersection operations, queues, bottlenecks, delays, and reduction/increase in accidents)
  • Bike/pedestrian path usage, as well as types of users, time of use and experience rating (level of comfort, amenities needed, etc.)
  • Change in type, location and severity of motor vehicle accidents
  • Bike/pedestrian path incidents (how many, when, type of incident)
  • Economic, social and health benefits of the on-bridge bike/pedestrian path
  • Impact of project on maintenance activities

Why does the bicycle/pedestrian path include a movable barrier?

A movable barrier separating the bicycle/pedestrian path from the westbound traffic lanes on the upper deck of the bridge was selected for the project because it provides better protection than would a temporary railing system (K-rail). The movable barrier is designed to absorb the impact of a vehicle in the case of an accident and minimize the amount of movement the barrier will experience. In addition, the movable barrier provides the flexibility to accommodate maintenance activities on the bridge while affording maintenance crews positive protection from nearby vehicle traffic. The movable barrier allows Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol to respond in the case of a major accident.

Does the bicycle/pedestrian path ever close?

Yes, under certain conditions. Maintenance activities, high winds/inclement weather, injury or accident response are incidents that sometimes result in the temporary closure of the bicycle/pedestrian path on the bridge.

What happens if there is an accident or a disabled vehicle on the bridge?

Emergency response personnel with some basic emergency equipment are staged at both ends of the bridge, ready to respond to an incident and address the situation until additional response units arrive on scene. If an incident requiring response were to occur on the westbound portion of the bridge (upper deck), emergency personnel can use the bicycle/pedestrian path to reach the scene and render assistance.