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Bay Bridge gawking turns into gridlock

September 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A day to celebrate the new Bay Bridge turned into a night of gridlock. Traffic backed-up for miles Tuesday night getting onto the span and it was near gridlock on city streets in San Francisco. Even at 10:30 p.m. the streets were packed.

Even in the projected utopia that has become modern life, no one prepared us for the amount of traffic that would be backed up into San Francisco. Still, it was at a virtual standstill Tuesday night, even after the sun went down in daylight savings time. So what happened?

"Yesterday was the outlier of outliers," said Caltrans spokesperson Bob Haus.

That is the objective, statistical opinion from Haus who has access to a massive room inside the Caltrans headquarters. It has 300 cameras on 24/7 on highways and bridges. The new bridge is the one at the heart of the matter -- the eye of a perfect storm.

"Now add the fact that summer is ending, people are coming back from the Labor Day weekend. Traffic levels are going to be higher anyway. Then you get the 'wow factor' of the new bridge," said Haus.

You also get gawkers. We saw one, Wednesday afternoon, rolling video helping contribute the back-up before 2 p.m.

"We obviously have something new here and whenever there is something new on the highway system, anything, there is a period of adjustment," said John Goodwin from the Bay Area Toll Authority.

Goodwin notes that on Tuesday about 2,000 fewer cars per hour took the new span westbound. They drove slower, but can you blame them? The best historical comparison for all of this is when CalTrans installed that temporary S-curve. You may recall that the misery did not last forever.

"That was about a three week break-in period, and then we found the norm," said Goodwin.

So now we await the new norm, which seems to be a lot like the old traffic we've seen before.


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