Less than 48 hours to go until Bay Bridge reopens

September 1, 2013 6:50:58 PM PDT
With less than 48 hours to go until the new Bay Bridge opens, demolition is done and we're seeing some of the finishing touches being put on the span.

A look at our live Yerba Buena camera shows that crews finished striping the lanes there Sunday and work at the toll plaza is moving just as briskly. Fresh paint was applied there too. Everything is on track for a Tuesday morning opening.

At a Sunday evening news conference, Caltrans said demolition on an old section of the bridge has been completed. On the western lanes of the toll plaza they have some striping to do. On the eastern side they have some paving and striping to do.

Some of this weekend's work includes changes for Fastrak users and how they get on the bridge. The new view as you approach the Bay Bridge toll plaza shows the need for Fastrak drivers and those paying cash to get into separate lanes earlier than before. The idea is to ease congestion. And there's an extra Fastrak lane if you get on the bridge from 880 or West Grand Avenue.

"We've removed the toll booth that was previously here so you get a little bit of open road tolling," said John Goodwin with the Bay Area Toll Authority. "No more need to slow down to 25 mph as you pass through the toll plaza, you can continue at highway speed."

Workers continued chipping away at the old span in order to make room for the bike and pedestrian path on the new bridge. They'll install a temporary path that heads into Oakland until the permanent fixture is completed within a year.

The tunnel on Yerba Buena Island got a good scrubbing inside and out. You'll notice the lack of grime immediately.

Caltrans is still aiming to open the bridge Tuesday at 5 a.m.

"We are as hopeful as anyone else that we can get this bridge open before 5 a.m., but we don't want the public planning their commute or drive based on what we hope," said Bay Bridge spokesperson Andrew Gordon. "If there is the opportunity to open the bridge early we will certainly take advantage of that, but again we are not at the point to make that call yet."

The CHP is out in force at every entrance ramp to the bridge making sure no one gets past the barricades. Caltrans has guides stationed nearby to help drivers figure out how to get across the bay. Many were lured there by their GPS.

"With any roadway closure, we do see people coming to the closures unexpectedly," CHP Officer Daniel Hill said. "Sometimes they don't know what to do and they come into the cone areas."

On Saturday workers also finished hacking apart a section of the old span so they could install the new bike and pedestrian path that goes along the road deck. It'll run into Oakland and Emeryville and should be open to cyclists Tuesday at noon.

Ann Weber of Emeryville discovered the path by accident Saturday and quickly left because she didn't want to get in trouble. But she'll be back.

"Oh, I'll be happy to go on the Bay Bridge just to see how spectacular the new bridge is and to see the view," she said. "It's really gonna be exciting. I can't wait to go."

On Monday afternoon there will be a ceremonial chain cutting and procession with antique cars. It will feature several hundred dignitaries including folks who were around for the original Bay Bridge dedication 75 years ago as well as those who came to the rescue when part of the span collapsed during the Loma Prieta quake.

"Dignitaries and people of note are being added almost as we speak and there will be a special guest," Goodwin said.

That's being kept a secret. The event will not be open to the public. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is set to do the honors because Governor Jerry Brown is at a family function in Michigan, although transportation officials say there is a chance the governor could return.

Commuters feel impact of Bay Bridge closure

Traffic on Doyle Drive was bumper to bumper on Sunday. The situation for people coming from Marin was just as bad. Traffic on 101 south had been backed up all the way to Marin City.

The Golden Gate Bridge District monitored the situation all day. And no matter what configuration they came up with, they say the backups were inevitable.

"We have a few commuters that are calling in, telling us where the traffic is in the hopes we open up another lane," Lt. Sheri Creer. "But they're pretty understanding, they know it's Labor Day weekend. So, this is what's to be expected. The good thing is the all-electronic toll. So when you get here, you don't have any backups at all."

The Golden Gate Bridge District doesn't have any numbers just yet, but say that as far as they can tell traffic was significantly worse this year than last Labor Day weekend.

Once again, people also turned to public transit to help them get around during the closure.

BART says that Saturday was the second busiest Saturday in the system's history, at more than 279,000 riders. Trains are running 24/7 through Monday night during the shutdown.

Ferries were also packed Golden Gate Ferry reports more than 3,000 more riders turned to their boats Saturday compared to last Saturday. Ferries to and from the East Bay were also considerably busier.

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


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