Bay Area braces for evening rush after bridge closure
on October 28, 2009
Updated at 9:45 pm
BART expanded services tonight and ran extra trains to accommodate passengers on the first evening rush hour after two high-tension steel tie rods crashed onto the Bay Bridge last night, forcing a complete bridge closure which will last through Thursday’s morning commute and perhaps longer.
“We will basically add 50-60 train cars to the system,” mainly on the transbay lines, BART Deputy Spokesman James Allison said today.
Chief BART Spokesman Linton Johnson said the agency is not currently planning overnight train service, citing the need to conduct inspections and repairs to the system’s cars and rail lines during the regular late-night break.
“The last train goes to bed at roughly 1:30, and the first train goes out at roughly 3:30,” Johnson said. “So you have a two- hour window which is critical to inspecting the track and servicing cars.”
Johnson said BART might have been able to prepare for additional trains through the night if officials had enough advanced notice to pre-plan, as they did when the Bay Bridge closed for repairs over the Labor Day weekend. “Even if Caltrans could pay for the overnight service, we still will not have enough time to conduct an inspection in preparation for the morning commute,” he said. “We really have to pay attention to making sure the system runs as perfectly as possible when we have the most number of passengers.”
Johnson said BART had “a huge jump in the number of riders” this morning, citing a 50% increase, as compared to a typical commute, in transbay ridership. By 10.30 this morning, he said, 139,000 passengers had ridden BART. If the traffic volume continued at such a rate, Johnson said, BART would be set to break the previous record number for passengers using the system in a 24- hour period. That record was set on September 8 2008, when 405,400 riders rode BART in a single day.
“What’s going to happen tomorrow? I don’t know.” Johnson said. “Some of [the train cars] may have to go off service, because if one of them fails, it causes ripple effects throughout the system, and then every one is late.”
Caltrans crews worked through last night to begin repairing the Bay Bridge rods that collapsed to the upper deck during Tuesday’s afternoon commute.
“The steel has arrived on site, but the new rods have not been installed yet as working conditions were not only dark, but windy,” John Goodwin, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman, said earlier this morning. “We should make more progress when the sun comes out and the wind dies down.”
The bridge closure was caused after two high-tension steel tie rods came loose from the Bay Bridge around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, crashing to the upper level of the bridge. One person was injured slightly and three cars were hit. The upper and lower levels have been closed to traffic since 7 p.m.
“People should be prepared for the bridge to be closed for at least 24 hours,” Goodwin said last night. “At this point, the word is ‘indefinite.’”
The 250,000 passengers who rely on the Bay Bridge scrambled this morning to find other transportation options. 511.org reported westbound very slow traffic on the San Mateo and Richmond-San Rafael Bridges throughout the early commute hours.
The crowding spilled onto the Alameda/Oakland ferries, which were supposed to start operating this morning on an accelerated schedule, Oakland to San Francisco every 30 minutes. “The commute was definitely more crowded,” said Janice Peterson, an early morning ferry commuter. “People were standing.” She arrived at 6.30am, she said, only to find there was no ferry for 45 minutes. “The ferry workers were as confused as the riders were about what was going on,” she said.
Goodwin said BART had longer trains in service last night to help commuters during the evening rush hour, and will continue running longer trains today. “The commute was pretty normal,” said Lauren Berkman, a commuter traveling from Oakland to Embarcedero this morning. “It’s always packed in the morning. If my normal commute was a seven on a scale of one to ten, this morning it was an eight.”
The broken tie rods were part of the September repairs that shut the bridge completely for four and a half days. Contractor C.C. Myers, the same company that handled emergency repairs of a cracked eyebar in September, will be involved in fixing the section of the bridge that broke last night.”It’s going to be a similar supply chain as we saw over Labor Day weekend,” said Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney.
The bridge malfunction came after the CHP issued a wind advisory Tuesday morning, declaring that motorists on the Bay Bridge and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge “are advised that gusts reaching 50 mph are forecast for both roadways today.”
Have you been impacted by the bridge closure? Nightmare commute? Day off from work? Oakland North wants to hear your story – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lead image: The empty Bay Bridge, seen from a ferry this morning. Pic: Shannon Service.
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