Bay Bridge Metering Lights Upgrade

The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and Caltrans are upgrading the metering lights at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza to a more automated and adaptive system.

Persistent traffic back-ups at the toll plaza and metering lights impact hundreds of thousands of people who cross the Bay Bridge every day.
Noah Berger

The $9 million project to improve westbound traffic flow at the Bay Bridge began in January 2020. Scheduled for completion in Summer 2021, the project will replace and upgrade the existing metering system software and hardware, including cabinets, controllers, servers and changeable message signs.

At the toll plaza, the Bay Bridge approach has 20 lanes and 16 toll booths that converge to 16 lanes at the metering lights, about 1,000 feet west of the toll plaza. The metering lights regulate the flow of traffic and vehicles merging from these 16 metered lanes to five traffic lanes across the bridge.

The existing metering lights were installed in 1974 and run on mostly original, now-outdated technology. Metering rates are manually controlled from the Caltrans District 4 Traffic Management Center, and the system is not capable of responding automatically to minute-to-minute traffic changes.

Taking advantage of the latest smart metering technology to move traffic more smoothly onto the Bay Bridge, the new equipment will allow the meters to almost instantly adapt to changing traffic conditions and will reduce queuing at the Toll Plaza.

Smart Tech

Some smart technology is already in place. Pavement detectors embedded in the roadway communicate with smart controllers, signals and signs on the highway to keep traffic moving. Variable message signs above the highway turn on to warn drivers of hazards ahead and to direct them around accidents.

The upgraded system will include new mainline meters and message signs, as well as additional video surveillance for enhanced incident detection. The system will be integrated into the Advanced Traffic Management System at the Caltrans Traffic Management Center.

Project Schedule
  • January 2020: Begin construction
  • March 2020: Begin system hardware installation
  • January 2021: Begin subsystem/system testing
  • February 2021: Begin system cutover
  • May 2021: Start field operational testing
  • July 2021: Estimated completion date