“Incredible teamwork” opens Bay Bridge Tuesday
on September 8, 2009
Bay Area drivers breathed a sigh of relief as the Bay Bridge reopened this morning just before 7 a.m. The region coped without this major thoroughfare for four and a half days, but commuters improvised and managed to avoid worst-case scenarios.
Caltrans shut the bridge for a special construction project over Labor Day weekend. During safety inspections unrelated to the construction project, however, workers discovered a crack in an eyebar, a vertical steel structure with loops or “eyes” on either end that supports the bridge. Due to this unforeseen complication, Caltrans yesterday announced at a 5 p.m. press conference that the bridge would not reopen before the Tuesday commute. But unexpectedly fast progress on the repairs meant the bridge could reopen this morning after all.
Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney commended the crews for their dedication.
“It was flat-out incredible teamwork, unmatched teamwork,” Ney said. “We had crews that worked 70 hours straight. We had some crews who refused to go home.”
As the evening commute commenced at 5 p.m., 511.org showed slightly slowed traffic on I-80 east after the Bay Bridge and at the eastern end of the San Mateo Bridge. But with so many people commuting via BART, boat or high-speed modem, the region’s highways actually moved more smoothly than usual this evening.Drivers who have endured the temporary loss of a bridge that carries more than 250,000 passengers a day can take comfort that they shouldn’t face similar construction-related disruptions anytime soon.
“We don’t expect any more shutdowns of the bridge until the new bridge opens, which is scheduled for 2013,” Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said.
Commuters fortunate enough to hear Caltrans’ announcement about the reopened Bay Bridge sailed through the toll plaza on the Oakland side of the bridge between 7 and 9 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., however, traffic began to slow on Interstate 80 west from Berkeley’s University Avenue to the toll plaza. Drivers were also adjusting to a new 300-foot detour section of the bridge where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour.
People who usually take the Bay Bridge to work relied on BART and other bridges today. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Goodwin said all transportation agencies continued expanded services Tuesday. These included longer BART trains and extended hours, additional ferry service and extra highway patrol on area freeways.
California Highway Patrol’s Sam Morgan said his agency prepared for heavier traffic on the Richmond-San Rafael and San Mateo bridges and the highways that connect to these bridges, including Interstate 580 and Highway 101.
“Fortunately we do live in an area with decent public transportation,” Morgan said.
More than 395,000 passengers took BART on Friday, the second-busiest day in the agency’s history. BART spokesman Linton Johnson said ridership numbers were up again this morning.
“Between 3 and 11 this morning, we saw an increase of 15,000 riders over our average for those morning hours,” Johnson said.
With the Bay Bridge open, BART will return to its regular schedule tomorrow. During today’s morning commute, BART ran 62 trains simultaneously — the maximum the system can handle.
Word of the Bay Bridge’s reopening had not reached all commuters this morning, and Oakland’s Rockridge BART station had filled up at 9 a.m.
“I normally wouldn’t take BART, I would have taken the casual carpool,” said Matt Hough, who was traveling into San Francisco. “I checked the Web this morning for news but obviously didn’t know the bridge had reopened. I didn’t check TV news or radio news this morning.”
Hough was among the passengers surprised to find out the bridge actually opened in time for this morning’s commute.
“You just ruined my day,” Hough said, laughing, as he went to his train.
Visit 511.org for up-to-date travel information.
Additional reporting by Lauren Callahan.
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