A preview of the Bay Bridge eastern span


The skyway section is finished, but you still won't be able to drive on it for another five years since a lot more has to be done.

Today a lone seagull has the new bridge all to himself. In about five years, it will be packed with traffic.

And though the new bridge won't hold any more cars than the old one, it will have an important difference to help keep traffic moving better than it does now -- 10-foot shoulders to handle break-downs.

"Every morning we have break-downs that slows down traffic, now we'll be able to clear them very easily," said Bart Ney from Caltrans.

And while the speed limit will be 50 on the road, cyclists and pedestrians can take a more leisurely pace on the path built just for them. It's finished now but won't open until the bridge does.

Along that path, there is a great view of the hardest working Caltrans employee ever -- the Bay Bridge troll; yes, troll.

After the Loma Prieta earthquake, a local artist took scraps of the fallen bridge section and crafted a figure holding a wrench and working on a bolt.

The iron workers placed it on the outside of the bridge to protect it until the new one was built. The old bridge will someday be torn down, and the troll's fate is unclear.

"Right now we're looking at whether he'll be transferred to the new bridge or he may end up in a museum but right now he' dong important work with his wrench so we're going to let him be," said Ney.

Real bridge builders continue work on the so-called 'Oakland touchdown' - where the bridge meets the land and ultimately connects with the toll plaza.

On Friday, students and staff from San Francisco's Drew School got a tour of the historic project.

Linda Riff remembers when her dad rode the key train across the bridge in the early 50s, but she's not nostalgic for the old days.

"I'm not attached to the past and the new structure, after the tour is going to be so amazing. I was not convinced from the entire political stiff in the past but this tour has made me say, wow, what a structure," said Berkeley resident Linda Riff.

In about five years, the new self-anchored suspension bridge will connect to the skyway in the completed skyway. The suspension bridge is the next project to get underway and it will connect Yerba Buena Island tunnel with the eastern skyway.

To get a feel for the new 10-foot shoulders on either side of the roadway, next week a segment of the West Approach will be opening, and that is over on the San Francisco side.

That roadway will be very much like the eastern skyway.

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