Bay Area Traffic

Agencies prepare for Bay Bridge closure

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bay Area transit agencies will be adding service to help accommodate travelers between the East Bay and San Francisco during this weekend's closure of the Bay Bridge for seismic retrofit work.

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The bridge will close beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. and will remain closed until 5 a.m. Tuesday, during which time crews will replace a 300-foot-long section of the eastern span of the bridge.

According to Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin, the Bay Bridge typically carries between 250,000 and 280,000 vehicles on weekdays, and 200,000 on the weekends, though Labor Day weekend numbers are often lower.

Whether the bridge could reopen earlier than Tuesday at 5 a.m. is still flexible, according to Goodwin.

"If things go well, we would be able to open the bridge early," he said. "We're not going to know until we're deep into the weekend."

During the closure, BART will operate 24-hours service.

BART service, which normally ends at about midnight, will be extended throughout the night, running hourly between midnight and 4 a.m. The changes will be in effect from midnight Thursday until midnight Monday.

However, only 14 of BART's 43 stations will remain open between midnight and 4 a.m.

In San Francisco, the 24th Street/Mission, Embarcadero and Powell stations will remain open.

In the East Bay, the Bay Fair, downtown Berkeley, Coliseum/Oakland Airport, Concord, Dublin/Pleasanton, El Cerrito del Norte, MacArthur, Oakland City Center/12th Street and Walnut Creek stations will remain open.

On the Peninsula, only the Daly City and San Francisco International Airport stations will remain open.

During the day, BART will run on a normal schedule, but with longer trains. Extra trains will also be available to accommodate passengers headed to sporting events, concerts and shows.

Golden Gate Bridge officials have said that those hoping to detour through Marin County during the closure period should note the bridge already operates at capacity on weekends, and there may be significant delays.

Additional Golden Gate Ferry trips between Sausalito and San Francisco, and from Larkspur to San Francisco will be offered during the weekend.

Ferry service will also be added between Alameda, Oakland and San Francisco, as well as from Vallejo, according to Goodwin.

There are currently no restrictions on boat traffic under the bridge, though the Coast Guard will be monitoring the situation, Goodwin said.

The bridge closure is part of an overall replacement of the eastern span of the bridge, scheduled to be completed in 2013, according to Goodwin. Seismic retrofit work was completed on the western span of the bridge in 2004.

This weekend, crews operating 150 feet in the air will install a new 300-foot bridge section, weighing about 3,600 tons, east of Yerba Buena Island.

Officials plan to remove the existing bridge section at about 1 p.m. Friday, and move in the new section by about 2 a.m. Saturday "if no unusual difficulties are encountered," Goodwin said.

After this weekend, the next big closure of the bridge will happen just before the new bridge opens to traffic, according to Goodwin.

"So we don't expect to have to close the bridge again for another four years," he said.

Caltrans will also use the weekend closure to make improvements to the toll plaza approaching the bridge from the East Bay.

Crews will demolish a mini plaza used for FasTrak-equipped vehicles coming to the bridge from Interstate Highway 880 and West Grand Avenue.

FasTrak customers will still be able to use the lanes approaching the former mini plaza area, and tolls will be collected with new FasTrak equipment.

For more information on the Bay Bridge closure and alternate travel routes, visit www.511.org.

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