I-80 carpool lane slows assemblywoman

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, a Democrat who commutes to Sacramento from her San Francisco district, is calling on eliminating the carpool lane, targeting the eastbound carpool lane on Interstate 80 between the Bay and Carquinez bridges.

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When it comes to special-interest legislation, it's hard to beat Assemblywoman Fiona Ma's call to eliminate a carpool lane so she'll have an easier time getting to work as a solo driver.

Ma, a Democrat who commutes to Sacramento from her San Francisco district, is targeting the eastbound carpool lane on Interstate 80 between the Bay and Carquinez bridges. That freeway is one of the busiest stretches in the state, but the carpool lane has almost no one in it during the morning commute, Ma says, and should be open to all.

So she's sponsoring a bill that would make that happen.

"It's nonsensical that we are (only) using three lanes when there is nobody in the carpool lane," Ma said.

Carpool lanes on that stretch of I-80 are for autos with three or more occupants. Violators face a fine that can total $480.

Just how many cars use the lane in the reverse commute is unclear. Caltrans hasn't provided a count for the past decade.

Ma's AB2200 would eliminate the eastbound carpool lane during the morning, but keep it during the afternoon rush hour. The El Cerrito City Council, for one, has gone on record against the bill, saying it flies in the face of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and encourage public transit.

Neither the politically skittish Caltrans nor the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has taken a stance on Ma's measure, which has passed the Assembly and awaits a state Senate vote.

Ma's bill would sunset in 2020 - by which time she'll have been long termed out. Transportation commission spokesman Randy Rentschler said suspending the lane wouldn't have a huge effect, but he notes, "Over the long term, the carpool lanes (on Bay Area roads) are filling up and being used - and when you take one away, it's hard to get it back."

Ma is not the first lawmaker to get personal with the roads.

The late Peninsula Assemblyman "Leadfoot" Lou Papan, who was known for putting pedal to the metal during his Sacramento commutes, for years managed to block legislation to allow the California Highway Patrol to use radar to catch speeding freeway motorists.

Only in Oakland: Oakland's long-running fight with the federal courts over its Police Department has taken bizarre turn: The city administrator says the monitor who was sent to the East Bay to evaluate the cops tried to hit on her.

Sources tell us the city alerted the federal judge who has ordered police reforms that the city is investigating the matter. They say his monitor, Robert Warshaw - a former police chief and antidrug official in the Clinton administration - made remarks in private conversations with City Administrator Deanna Santana that she took as inappropriate.

In one case, Warshaw allegedly took the married mother of two's hand and told her she looked "stunning."

The matter is now being looked at by an independent investigator brought in by the city.

Warshaw also allegedly used abusive language when talking to Santana about Police Chief Howard Jordan, the city says.

The incidents date back to May, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson - who sent Warshaw to Oakland - has sealed the details of the city's heads up.

Warshaw is under contract with Oakland to monitor and report on the Police Department's compliance with reforms called for in the wake of a 2003 officer misconduct case. Calls for comment to his office at Police Performance Solutions in New Hampshire were not returned.

Deputy City Attorney Jamilah Jefferson wrote in a heads up to Henderson that the issue was a "highly sensitive personnel matter."

John Burris, a frequent critic of the department and one of the lead lawyers in the 2003 case that led to the reform order, called the timing of the allegations against Warshaw "suspicious."

Burris noted that the allegations come on the heels of two reports critical of the Police Department's compliance with Henderson's ordered reforms, one by Warshaw and another by a second firm hired by the city.

Henderson has scheduled hearings for December to consider a court takeover of the department.

Oakland officials counter that Warshaw's alleged remarks had to be reported to the court and investigated.

"It's the law," said one. "We didn't have a choice."