Bay Bridge closed; transition to new span underway

August 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Bay Bridge is now closed in both directions as crews begin the process of transitioning to the new eastern span. The bridge is scheduled to remain closed through Labor Day weekend and reopen Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. It's taken 24 years to get to this point, after the 1989 earthquake damaged the bridge.

The labor pains over Labor Day weekend will end with the birth of a new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. Drivers say they are ready and Wednesday afternoon, many were heading home early to make sure they were across the bridge before the closure begins.

Caltrans crews spent part of the day moving heavy equipment, including cranes, into place.

"Today is kind of the calm before the storm," Bay Bridge spokesperson Andrew Gordon said. "We kind of done as much as could have been done before closing getting to those sections where there's currently live traffic. So the kind of a lot of preparation planning today and waiting for 8 p.m."

Wednesday, some Bay Area residents headed to Emeryville to snap a final few photos of the old cantilever section of the bridge. Others documented their final drive across the old span with videos posted on YouTube. Nick O'Connor even saved his toll receipt as a souvenir.

"I'm going to miss it, but you know, I lived through that earthquake and... it's got to go," he said.

The California Highway Patrol says the best plan is to avoid the roads around the Bay Bridge after 7 p.m. when officers will start begin running traffic breaks through the MacArthur Maze in the East Bay and northbound lanes of Highway 101 in San Francisco. Patrol cars will go back and forth across lanes alerting drivers to reduce their speed and leading them to the detours away from the bridge. Caltrans will follow with electronic signs and cones to mark the closures.

AC Transit buses will stop running across the Bay Bridge after 7:10 p.m. Wednesday until it opens back up next Tuesday morning. Instead, the buses will run back and forth in the East Bay to four BART stations.

BART will be running 24 hours a day during the closure with overnight trains on an hourly schedule serving 14 stations.

The plan is for the bridge to be traffic free by 8 p.m. so work can begin.

The first order of business Wednesday is demolition. Crews will be tearing up the old approach to the bridge and grinding away the old pavement to make way for a new path from the toll plaza to the new eastern span. More than 6,000 truckloads of asphalt will make their way from Vulcan Materials in Pleasanton to the bridge to become the new roadway.

The ceremonial chain cutting ceremony is scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. and the new bridge will open by 5 a.m. Tuesday.

After the new bridge opens, Caltrans will start tearing down the old cantilever section. It will have to be dismantled piece by piece to avoid a collapse. The first section to go will be the dreaded S-curve.

Officials say people will notice the old Bay Bridge largely gone within nine months. But it's expected to take two years after that to take the old bridge and foundation down to the mud line.

Some of the pieces will be kept for historic purposes, but much of the concrete and steel will be recycled or sold for scrap.

Bob Faber drove a 1930s vintage Ford Model A across the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge and was the last car to do so. It was escorted by Caltrans tow trucks just before 8 p.m.

If you have to drive during the shutdown, download ABC7's exclusive Waze traffic app to get around the gridlock.


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