Large majority of Richmond voters want third auto lane on bridge’s upper deck: poll

Most Richmond voters want third auto lane on bridge's upper deck, poll says
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (Photo by Mike Kinney).

A new poll indicates that a large majority of Richmond voters support opening a third lane for carpools and public transit on the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge during the morning commute.

The poll of 511 registered Richmond voters was commissioned by the Bay Area Council and conducted by polling firm Change Research in November (see results here). The poll was done amid long-running community concern over westbound traffic backups that spill into Richmond neighborhoods.

According to the poll, 67 percent of respondents feel “very frustrated” by bridge traffic, while another 25 percent feel “somewhat frustrated.”

Just over 80 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat support a recent proposal to open a third lane for carpools and transit on the upper deck during the peak morning commute, and to allow bikes and pedestrians to use the eastbound/lower deck during those times. To make that possible, the proposal suggests using moveable zipper barrier systems like those on the Golden Gate Bridge.

A smaller majority of poll respondents — 61 percent — either strongly or somewhat support removing the bike lane altogether.

According to the Bay Area Council, roughly 18,000 drivers cross the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge during the morning commute, while the westbound bike lane serves roughly 21
cyclists every weekday morning.

The Council is working with a coalition of Richmond community members that includes the leaders of area neighborhood councils to call upon regional transit agencies to address the traffic problem.

On Nov. 8, the Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee directed staff to start examining and planning for options to open the third lane to carpools and transit. That action followed a letter writing campaign that amassed nearly 20,000 letters from elected officials, Richmond residents and bridge commuters, according to the Council. 

“The message from Richmond voters is loud and clear, they want action now to ease
traffic congestion that is unfairly disrupting their lives and their neighborhoods,” said Bay Area Council COO John Grubb. “There are sensible solutions and even funding that exist now to fix this problem. What is needed is the political will to make it happen and get it done.”

In 2018, congestion during the evening commute on the eastbound span of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge was largely addressed when the shoulder lane was turned into a third vehicular lane. The following year, a bike lane was installed on the western span as part of a pilot project to connect the San Francisco Bay Trail. The bike lane limits the bridge to just two vehicular lanes during the peak morning commute hours, and eliminated the shoulder previously used by disabled vehicles.