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Guest Columnist:

David Fincher

A Caltrains project to open a third eastbound lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in order to relieve frustrating congestion is not expected to be completed until 2017, but a North Bay lawmaker is pushing to have the lane opened by the end of September.

Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, has introduced legislation that would force Caltrans to immediately open a third eastbound lane to vehicles, at least on a temporary basis until design work and environmental review continues on a permanent solution.

Levine said the bridge was designed nearly 60 years ago to have three lanes in each direction. Restoring the shoulder to a vehicle lane “should be simple.”

“Evening commuters sit idle, polluting the environment, and losing time they could otherwise be spending with their families,” Levine said in a statement.

Caltrans cautioned against the optimistic legislation, saying the current shoulder, once on land in Richmond, reduces in width from 10 feet to 2, which would create a bottleneck, according to the Contra Costa Times. The agency also says its ongoing $74 million project to open the third eastbound lane as well as add a bike and pedestrian path alongside the westbound lanes needs to pass both state and federal environmental review.

Levine’s legislation has gained support from Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, and is co-authored by one Republican and six Democrats, including Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond.