Q. Dear Honk: I’ve noticed a number of freeway on-ramps with two lanes, each with a meter light, and then those lanes merge into one. Both lights turn green at the same time, thus requiring the two drivers to merge cooperatively, which usually occurs without incident. Why not make the process simpler and stagger the green lights so one lane at a time moves forward?

– Bill Fratzke, Brea

A. Good thought, Bill – Caltrans, in fact, agrees.

The agency long ago kicked off a project to “convert ramp meters throughout Orange County to staggered metering,” said Elizabeth Manzo, a Caltrans spokeswoman. “The completion of this project depends on the availability of funds.”

Back in 2017, Honk was told that 35 percent of the 256 multi-lane ramps with meters had been converted; Manzo said the percentage for metered multi-lane ramps is up to 40 percent.

On some ramps that haven’t yet gotten the staggered meter signals, the problem isn’t too bad – at least the lanes themselves are staggered.

Converting ramps with two lights that simultaneously turn green to staggered signals isn’t as simple as it seems. New lights and signs must be installed and the ramp area rewired. Caltrans tends to do such work when it has a construction project in the area, because then it costs less to do the conversion.

The cost of conversions apparently varies, as different factors are involved.

As you can tell, Bill, it is going to take awhile until all of the county’s ramps are up to speed – so for now we all need to pretend that Miss Manners is in the car with us while merging on non-staggered ramps.



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