Buckle up, I-80 and I-880 drivers, the gridlock from an upcoming MacArthur Maze construction project could be a nightmare well beyond the current nightmarishness.

For those new to the area, you should first know that whenever you hear "the Maze" referred to in relation to Bay Bridge traffic backups, this is what is being referred to. It's what's colloquially known in the traffic biz as a "spaghetti junction" or interchange, and it's where I-80 converges with 580, 880, and 980 in Oakland, and historically it is a nexus of traffic trouble.

A MacArthur Maze rebuild is slated for three years from now, and the plans under consideration come with a dismal and difficult traffic outlook.

East Bay traffic can be a soul-crushing entanglement at seemingly any hour these days, but these might seem like the good old days once this ambitious rebuild of the Maze is underway. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Phil Matier credibly predicts months if not years of substantially worse East Bay traffic woes, as a proposed freeway interchange rebuild is enormous in its scope.

“It’s pretty big,” Caltrans spokesperson Chiconda Davis told the Chronicle. “Probably running a close second to the building of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.”

Under one version of a construction plan that’s still all under consideration, traffic would be diverted to Oakland and Emeryville streets. That of course, would bring I-80 levels of traffic to two- and four-lane city streets ill-equipped to deal with such volumes.

That is only one proposed plan, and Caltrans is considering several. “It depends on the alternative that is chosen,” Davis said, though all of these plans are likely to substantially slow East Bay commutes. Costs of each plan vary from $37 million to $182 million, per the Chron, and time frames range between ten to 36 months.

But if you’ve lived in the Bay Area for any amount of time, you know to expect the far higher-end estimates.

As ABC 7 notes, the venerable concrete maze to the immediate east of the Bay Bridge has inadequate clearance for taller trucks. Since the 1960s, Caltrans has required vertical clearances on bridges to be no less than 16 feet, six inches. But the MacArthur Maze predates those requirements by at least ten years, and its clearances fall a little short.

We should note again that no construction plan has been chosen yet, and the good news is that you can leave your feedback by clicking the Comments link on the Caltrans MacArthur Maze Project page. The bad news is that page says “Due to a technical glitch, comments submitted via email prior to February 26, 2019 may not have been delivered to the project inbox,” which seems an ominous start to the project.

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