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It’s Official: No County Commute Is Easy – But I-680 Is The Worst

Crash on northbound I-680 at Diablo (File). Photo: Scott Bradley

Anyone making a commute to home or office in the Bay Area has their horror story – but anecdotal accounts of molasses-slow traffic and short-tempered motorists on Interstate 680 from San Ramon to Pleasant Hill led us to believe something special was happening out there – and now it’s official.

The afternoon northbound creep on I-680 from San Ramon to Pleasant Hill has been ranked by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) as the worst commute in Contra Costa County and 5th in the Bay Area.

The Worst? That morning crawl along westbound I-80 jumped three spots to #1 as the worst commute Bay Area-wide, but I-680 got the nod for Contra Costa’s Worst Ride.

Graphic: MTC
Graphic: MTC


MTC analysts said freeway congestion around the Bay Area is increasing faster than either population or employment. Since 2000, per-commuter congested delay has risen by 23 percent while the region’s population has grown by 10 percent, and total regional employment at the end of 2014 was only about 1 percent higher than turn-of-the-century levels.

The remainder of the Top 10 list includes the morning drive on southbound I-880 from San Leandro to Milpitas, which retained its #2 position; the afternoon commute on southbound U.S. 101 from Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale to Oakland Road in North San Jose, which ranked #3 for the second year in a row; the afternoon crawl northbound on I-680 from San Ramon to Pleasant Hill, which held steady at #5; the northbound I-680 commute over the Sunol Grade from Mission Blvd. in Fremont to State Route 84 in Sunol, rising one spot to #6; the afternoon slog on eastbound I-80 from the Bay Bridge toll plaza area to Albany, which climbed one spot to #7; the westbound morning commute on I-205 and I-580 over the Altamont Pass to Dublin, which dropped to #8 from #6 a year earlier; and the afternoon drive on eastbound State Route 24 from the I-580 interchange in Oakland through the Caldecott Tunnel to Orinda, which remained at #9.

“A few things really stand out when you look at the data,” explained Santa Clara County Supervisor and MTC Chair Dave Cortese. “One is that congestion is concentrated in a select few corridors, primarily on routes leading into or out of Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Another is that over three-quarters of the congested delay is found on freeways in Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. A third is that commuters on a lot of the most congested corridors stand to benefit as major investments such as BART to San Jose, BART capacity improvements, Caltrain electrification and new freeway express lanes come on line in the years ahead.”


  1. How do they explain the fact that congestion exceeds known growth and employment ratios? How much of this is related to the Human Factor with people doing brilliantly stupid things whilst driving?

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