Crews applying final touches to new Bay Bridge

August 20, 2013 5:09:43 PM PDT
The new eastern span of the Bay Bridge is set to open to traffic two weeks from today but until then, there's still a lot of work to be done.

The bridge is considered seismically and structurally complete except for the long-term fix for the broken bolts. The key projects that need to be completed before the bridge opens involve connecting the finished span to the Toll Plaza. And those projects are nothing compared to some of the extreme engineering they have pulled off in the past.

A concrete barrier is the only thing still separating the current westbound approach from the new one. When connected over the Labor Day closure, traffic will have a more direct alignment from the toll plaza to the ascent across the bay.

That's true at the western end of the new span as well. Westbound traffic will soon have a straight shot through the Yerba Buena Tunnel when a final connection is made and the eastbound deck will also be less curvy coming out of the tunnel. In addition to a straighter alignment, motorists might have a touch of vertigo as they fly across the bay unfettered by the old cantilever.

"This will be... I don't want to call it jarring, but it's going to be a very, very different experience for people when they drive over this bridge in terms of what they've been used to for the past several decades," Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said.

Some lane striping is done, but there's still plenty more left to complete. Also, temporary bike and pedestrian path sections are staged just outside Yerba Buena Island, though they are headed for the eastern access point in Oakland. A section of old bridge has to be torn down during closure before they're installed.

"Everyone is very confident that this work is going to get done. I would say this is important critical work to connect the bridge and open it to the public, but we've done much more complicated work during past closures," Gordon said.

Asked if the new span could open earlier than scheduled, Gordon said, "We want to have people focused on the fact that the bridge is going to open by 5 a.m. no Tuesday, September 3. If there is the possibility of earlier opening, we'll certainly let people know. But we don't want to send out multiple times and confuse people."

There's only one week and one day left to drive on the old bridge.


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