Controversy over proposed Bay Bridge celebration

February 13, 2013 5:39:18 PM PST
A big, expensive, once-in-a-lifetime party is being planned for the Bay Bridge.

Caltrans is going to shut-down the bridge to all traffic the night of August 28 so crews can hook up the new eastern span to Yerba Buena Island. They expect the construction to take about three days. They'll finish sometime on August 31.

But instead of opening the bridge to traffic, the plan is to keep it closed for two days of celebrating. It would reopen by 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday September 3, the day after Labor Day, which is a bit too late for some people who'd rather work than party.

Closing the Bay Bridge for a party sounds like a good idea, right? Well, it depends on who you ask.

The Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee is looking to shell out more than $5.5 million of taxpayer funds to throw a party Labor Day weekend.

Richmond-based company "Hartman Studios," is in the role of party planner for what they say will be one of the biggest events the Bay Area has ever seen.

The bridge closure is expected to stretch over a five day period. And while some are looking forward to the party, some small business owners like Mo Aabas are making alternative plans. His family-owned courier business has been operating in Oakland since 1951, and he had to deal with bridge closures before.

"Making sure that we have a first option, second option, third option for everything cause we have regular customers daily," Aabas said.

When the bridge was closed in 2009 for repairs, it created a traffic nightmare. There were reports of three hour commutes from Oakland to downtown San Francisco.

To make sure he's able to move his crews, Aabas says he's planning ahead, "And we will be using BART quite a bit to shuttle drivers back and forth," he said.

The bridge opening in 1936 drew thousands, and might have been the last time so many were on the span. This year, the plans are to have three days dedicated to repair and two days of public events; placing potential crowd estimates at more than five and a half million people.

"There's been a 20 year history on the Bay Bridge that has attracted a lot of attention over times," MTC spokesperson Randy Rentschler said.

Attention will also be on Aabas to make sure those two business days the bridge is closed doesn't stop him from getting packages where they need to be.

"Fridays are our heavy days, last second to get items out," Aabas said. "I don't think a bridge closure is going to be an excuse to even tell someone that they're not going to receive a package or a paycheck."

One of the things Aabas has to do, he has to deliver payroll to several small businesses in the East Bay. He wants to make sure he gets those payroll checks there on time.

The plan will go before the board for final approval later this month.

For information about events and the celebration planned for the Labor Day weekend bridge celebration, click here.


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