Law enforcement agencies give tips for Bay Bridge closure


Traffic is always a mess this during the evening commute. But during the shutdown it will be an even worse nightmare. Drivers will have to find another way to get around while the new eastern span is being prepared for its debut, right after Labor Day.

The goal Wednesday for law enforcement on both sides of the bridge was to let people know as much information as possible about exactly how the closure next week will go and to make sure this changing of the guard in Bay Area history is as safe as it can be.

Bay Area drivers have been down this road before; the one where the Bay Bridge closes for several days, usually over a holiday weekend.

"We all know people in the Bay Area are professionals when it comes to these closures," CHP Officer Mike Ferguson said. "We've all been through this before."

Next Wednesday's closure will begin with a series of rolling traffic blocks by California Highway Patrol vehicles on the main roads leading to the bridge.

On-ramps in Emeryville, Oakland and San Francisco will also be shut down.

Police warn drivers to plan ahead to avoid being that car that gets stuck on the wrong side of a closure.

"We ask that people leave with plenty of time because traffic will be impacted going from San Francisco and going home," SFPD Officer Albie Esparza said.

When the new bridge opens, a Caltrans animation shows what it will look like for drivers heading westbound. Like the old span, there will be five lanes. But the new bridge will have no S-curve; and perhaps more importantly, shoulders.

"If our officers need to make an enforcement stop or some type of a safety stop for a disabled motorist, then that may give them an added measure of cushion so that they're not physically in a traffic lane," CHP Officer Sam Morgan said.

While the CHP patrols the new roadway, Oakland police on bicycles will focus on the pedestrian and bike portion of the bridge.

"This is a good time, a positive time, this is history in the making, and we are going to be a part of it with everyone else and we want to create a very safe environment," Oakland Police Department spokesperson Johnna Watson said.

Whether walking, biking, or riding in a car, police and Caltrans are well aware there will be a lot for everyone to take in when they first experience the new eastern span.

"Despite that wow factor, that drivers leave the gawking to their passengers," Bay Bridge spokesperson Andrew Gordon said.

The CHP also reminds motorists it's against the law to use those new shoulders to stop and take pictures.

But despite a blitz by law enforcement agencies to warn residents about the upcoming closure, not everyone has heard.

When asked if she knew the Bay Bridge was shutting down, Oakland resident Briana Stewart said, "I had no idea, none whatsoever."

Now that she knows, Stewart says she'll take BART. Others will too, and expect trains to be crowded.

"Going home is not gonna be easy, though," Pittsburg resident John Duarte said. "Gonna have a lot of company."

Big companies like PG&E are telling its 3,700 employees in San Francisco to telecommute if you can.

"This could still be a big deal, but hopefully we're thinking it may not be as big as the BART strike," PG&E spokesperson Joe Molica said. "But again, anytime there's a major disruption in the Bay Area transportation network, we have contingency plans in place."

The 300,000 drivers who normally take the Bay Bridge daily will likely take a detour through the North Bay. That trip across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge could be delayed. Ongoing construction near the toll plaza has some lanes closed. When you get to Marin, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard will take you to 101 south, a notorious bottleneck.

Most drivers will be headed south to the Golden Gate Bridge, where traffic increased by 20 percent the last two times the Bay Bridge was closed.

"One of the things that's unique about this is there's a Thursday and a Friday that are normal weekdays for a lot of people," Golden Gate Bridge manager Kary Witt said. "So there's gonna be a normal morning commute combined with an impending holiday weekend combined with a Bay Bridge closure. And I think people are just going to have to be very very patient."

On top of it all, the Sausalito Art Festival will draw thousands over Labor Day weekend. Extra ferry service is planned.

And Cal plays Northwestern Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. Plan to take public transportation if you can.

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