Countdown underway for 5-day Bay Bridge closure


The unprecedented 5-day bay closure means hundreds of thousands of commuters will have to find another way back and forth across the bay, work from home, or take time off through Labor Day. But for those who must make the trip, transit agencies are stepping up to add service.

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.

"People who normally take a transbay bus could hop on the same bus; it will dump them off at a BART station for the continued trip to San Francisco," AC Transit spokesperson Clarence Johnson said.

BART will be running 24 hours a day during the closure with overnight trains on an hourly schedule serving 14 stations. The last time the Bay Bridge closed over Labor Day weekend back in 2009, BART saw a 30 percent increase in passengers.

"Thursday and Friday it's going to be very busy so we're encouraging people to either use the ferries or modify their plans not to travel in the peak 8-8:30 in the morning and 5-5:30 in the afternoon," BART spokesperson Jim Allison said.

The San Francisco Bay Ferries were swamped in the BART strike -- ridership that was normally 6,000 a day jumped to 20,000. With that in mind, there will be additional service this weekend.

Caltrans says that the defective bolt issue that almost delayed the opening has been resolved for the new eastern span. Metal plates, or shims, were wedged into place and the saddles are there to reinforce the defective bolts that almost delayed the opening.

"The shims are essentially steel wedges. It's what you would do if had a wobbly table, you would wad up a napkin to keep it from moving. That's what we have done here under both the westbound and eastbound deck," Bay Bridge spokesperson Andrew Gordon said.

The five-day bridge closure will have an economic impact on the Bay Area, especially small businesses that rely on tourist traffic for their livelihood, like those on Treasure Island.

The Winery San Francisco on Treasure Island is bracing for an unusually mellow Labor Day weekend. The winery will be open, but with the Bay Bridge closed, they're expecting fewer wine- tasters, though they are running their usual boat and bus tours from the city.

"We normally get several hundred to 1,000 people come by do wine tasting here on the weekend; like last weekend, we he nearly 1,000 people," Brian Kane said. "This weekend, it's going to be a little bit less."

Kane knows this weekend is going to be tough, but in the long-term, the new bridge will be a boon for business, especially a couple of years down the road when the new bike lane connects with the island.

"They're going to be able to bike over here, go wine tasting at the seven wineries here on Treasure Island, enjoy the whole afternoon and bike back," he said.

The chain-cutting ceremony is at 3 p.m. Labor Day. Gov. Jerry Brown says he will not be there, but the MTC said anything is possible. When the original Bay Bridge opened in 1936, the governor at the time cut the chain with a blow torch.

After the new bridge opens, demolition of the old bridge will take a few years.

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

Waze engineers say they couldn't be more ready, in part because there are exponentially more Bay Area drivers using Waze than the last time the bridge was closed. And for Waze, more drivers mean more accurate data.

Waze uses data from thousands of smartphones to tell when one bridge is backing up and reroute drivers to another one if it's faster.

ABC7 News reporters Laura Anthony, Jonathan Bloom, Heather Ishimaru and Matt Keller contributed to this report.

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