Few problems on Bay Bridge closureBy Patrick May & Kim Vo
As jackhammers began chewing into its western flank for retrofit work, the temporarily disabled Bay Bridge took a breather Saturday from half its traffic load while the Bay Area took a deep breath of its own, bracing for trans-bay gridlock.
It never came.
Despite some nasty snarls in San Francisco and on backup bridges, the impacts of the Labor Day closure of the eastbound lanes for seismic upgrades were hardly earth-shaking.
"Things seem to be running very smoothly," said California Highway Patrolman Scott Cakebread as morning unfolded on a bridge with traffic mellow in one direction and non-existent in the other. "We've seen hardly any impact to the Bay Bridge, with no backup westbound, no reports of anything, no delays, no metering lights, just free-flowing traffic."
This pretty picture was hardly a fluke. News of the closure -- which began 11:59 p.m. Friday and remains in effect until 5 a.m. Tuesday -- was broadcast high and low for days. Plus, Labor Day weekends tend to be subdued in the Bay Area, as residents flee town to squeeze a few last drops out of their summer. And there were few huge events in the area drawing people into their cars.
The ferries and BART, too, were doing yeoman's duty.
"We're running overnight service 24-hours straight through Monday morning," said BART spokesman Linton Johnson. "And we're extending the length of our trains -- but not adding new trains -- to accommodate what we anticipate will be larger crowds trying to get into San Francisco over the weekend."
The three-day closure was a challenge, although bridge lanes were shut down for two days on two previous occasions, last year and in June, says Johnson, adding that trains were running Saturday without problems or significant delays.
There were delays, however, for motorists trying to get out of town over the Golden Gate Bridge. All morning, traffic thickened along Lombard Street, as far back as Franklin Street. Around 2:30 p.m., after bridge tenders noticed traffic into the city was easing up, authorities opened up a fourth outbound lane and things started flowing again, said bridge security Sgt. Daniel Gomez.
"We'd noticed northbound traffic getting heavier all morning," he said, "so we made the bridge four north to alleviate it. It made a big difference."
Motorists also got hung up in the eastbound lanes of the San Mateo Bridge as traffic slowed throughout the morning, reaching as far as the mid-span hump by late afternoon.
Many East Bay residents refused to be intimidated by the bridge closure. For the past ten years, Bill Klinke and Norma Myers of Berkeley had driven to Fisherman's Wharf each Labor Day weekend to pick up a fresh salmon for their annual bash. This time, said Klinke, they weren't about let a few closed lanes between them and the star of their BBQ.
"We figured driving into the city would be easy, but not driving out," Klinke said, "so we took a ferry boat over. We also took a little wagon and an old aluminum cooler that we thought would be a perfect size the salmon. We rolled it over to Pier 39 and caught the boat home.
"The ferry ride was wonderful," he said. "Maybe we'll do it next year - even if the bridge is open."
Copyright ©2006 San Jose Mercury News. Published 09/02/2006.