Traffic smooth after Bay Bridge closes, official says

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Traffic around the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was flowing smoothly on Thursday after its eastern span was closed and work progressed on a new stretch set to open early next week.

Officials reported no major problems or traffic disruptions as workers put the finishing touches on the new portion of the bridge.

Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said crews were doing minor demolition, grinding and paving. The new crossing also needs to be connected to the ground on the Oakland side and on the west side at Yerba Buena Island tunnel.

“The key thing here is that construction is going very well. We’re on schedule,” Gordon said.

The bridge closed on Wednesday night, and the new span is expected to be opened on Monday night or Tuesday morning.

The reopening will come nearly 24 years after the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the existing eastern span, setting off a public works project marked by numerous delays, political fights over its design and complex engineering hurdles.

Fears of a snarled morning commute on Thursday never materialized, though alternate routes into San Francisco and Bay Area Rapid Transit trains were more crowded.

“We’re seeing a lot of new people at BART this morning, and seeing lines back up at the ticket machines,” said Jim Allison, a spokesman for the rail service.

Preliminary ridership numbers showed an increase of about 7,800 people on BART through 6 a.m. compared with a usual commute day, Allison said.

Commuters from Silicon Valley experienced some delays unrelated to the bridge closure after a Caltrain engine hit and killed a pedestrian in Palo Alto. The incident stopped northbound trains for nearly an hour.

The closure of the bridge was expected to have region-wide effects on traffic throughout the weekend. The Bay Bridge is a workhorse crossing, with about 280,000 vehicles using it each day. This weekend’s closure is the fourth time in seven years that officials have shut down the bridge over a Labor Day weekend, when traffic is significantly lighter.

Some commuters took the current travel disruption in stride.

Two regular BART riders heading into San Francisco said they didn’t notice any differences from any other workday.

“I don’t think it was any worse than usual and that’s normal to me,” said Bee Dee, 41, of Alameda. “People had plenty of time to make other plans.”

Renee Bush, 52, of Castro Valley believes many BART riders started their holiday weekend early.

“It wasn’t crowded at all. I didn’t find a seat, but my train wasn’t packed either,” Bush said.

California Highway Patrol Office Daniel Hill said diverting traffic from the bridge went smoothly Wednesday night, and it appeared people heeded warnings and planned for the closure.

“People did seem like they knew what was going on,” Hill said. “For the most part, the commute was very light for a Wednesday night.”

The official opening ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday, but it was unclear who would be there to cut the chain.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who was closely involved in planning the bridge when he was mayor of Oakland, decided to skip the ceremony to be with his wife at a family gathering in Michigan.

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Associated Press writers Terry Collins and Sudhin Thanawala contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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