Caltrans: Bay Bridge now open
on November 2, 2009
UPDATE 9:11 a.m.
Caltrans has opened the Bay Bridge and traffic is moving steadily in both directions.
“The repair work on the Bay Bridge is now complete,” Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said at a briefing this morning. “We are happy to return the Bay Bridge to the public.”
Even with the bridge closed last night, BART did not offer service overnight into Monday morning because of the need to perform state-mandated track-safety checks in time for the workday commute.
“During the morning commute on Monday we have to have every single car out there and they have to be in tip-top shape,” BART spokesman Linton Johnson said, adding that performing safety checks while simultaneously running trains overnight is simply too dangerous.
High winds knocked down two 20-foot steel tie rods from the top of the Bay Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, striking three cars on the bridge’s upper deck and injuring one man. The California Highway Patrol shut down the bridge at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening.
The tie rods were part of a temporary construction fix of a cracked eyebar on the Bay Bridge discovered during a Labor Day construction project. Over the last several days, construction crews have installed an improved tie rod design near the cracked eyebar and transportation officials say they need to make sure they can vouch for their structural integrity.
Dale Bonner, California’s secretary for business, transportation and housing, was on the scene Thursday.
“We are working with the Federal Highway Administration and some outside inspectors who are looking at the work to make sure that there’s some additional assurance that the bridge is completely safe and that it’s appropriate to open the bridge to traffic,” Bonner said.
Traffic snarled at many choke points during the morning and evening commute hours last week, but travelers’ ingenuity and record ridership on BART helped prevent a total transportation meltdown.
“It’s going as well as can be expected,” said CHP public information officer Sam Morgan. “There have obviously been heavier volumes at the San Mateo, Richmond-San Rafael and Golden Gate bridges. Even the Dumbarton Bridge has been heavier than usual. There’s also been an increase in ancillary roads to these bridges.”
BART has run full 10-car trains since Tuesday to accommodate a crush of extra riders. More than 437,000 passengers rode BART Wednesday, and some 442,000 riders flooded the system on Thursday, the largest one-day total in the system’s history. The system had 88,000 transbay commuters Thursday morning, 60 percent more than a normal morning’s roughly 55,200 commuters.
BART riders have reported predictably crowded stations, platforms, and trains, as people who normally drive to work take to the rails, with many seemingly brand-new riders adding to the chaos. Temescal resident Elsie Medina, who typically drives to her job in San Francisco’s Financial District but takes BART “a few times a year,” told of showing one rider how to purchase a ticket and other passengers looking “lost and confused” on Wednesday.
The packed trains were “definitely uncomfortable,” Medina said. “But there really wasn’t any choice. Everybody has to get somewhere, and it seems like BART’s the only way to do it right now.”
Other commuters, including the NBA’s Houston Rockets, turned to ferry service to traverse the bay. On Wednesday afternoon, the Rockets commuted from their San Francisco hotel to Oakland’s Oracle Arena for their game against the Golden State Warriors. On Thursday, some East Bay residents who work in San Francisco also took to the water for their commute.
“Everything went fine,” said Debra Sanders of Alameda Harbor Bay Ferry, which runs between Alameda and San Francisco’s Ferry Building. “Our ridership was 616 people—that’s double the usual.”
511.org has provided an array of services for commuters who cannot use public transportation to get to work. 511 operators offered real-time travel advice for drivers and linked drivers and passengers looking for carpools. Kit Powis, 511.org’s communication director, said his agency experienced an increase in calls, especially from people who want carpool permits for BART parking lots.
“We usually get 5 calls for those permits, but today we got 20 calls,” Powis said Friday, citing the crowding in BART parking lots.
The CHP’s Morgan said his agency will have extra tow trucks on the roads to clear out disabled cars as quickly as possible. He advised drivers to remain courteous and prepare for delays.
“Obey all traffic laws and be patient,” Morgan said. “We realize how serious an inconvenience it is, but we want drivers to be courteous. Don’t fall prey to road rage. We want people to drive to arrive.”
Image: Traffic bunches up on the approach to the MacArthur Maze on a recent day when the Bay Bridge was out of service.
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