Detour ahead for Bay Bridge commutersBy Erik N. Nelson
Bay Bridge commuters will be thrown a couple of new curves as they travel east onto the Bay Bridge today.
About 6 a.m., eastbound lanes leading onto the bridge from San Francisco will be diverted from the 71-year-old western approach onto a new temporary structure that will curve traffic left and under the new westbound Interstate 80 viaduct. From there, traffic will proceed onto the original, albeit retrofitted, suspension span.
The temporary curves will come with a 35 mph speed limit, likely to cause delays, according to the state transportation department, Caltrans.
"We expect it to be definitely slow after we approve the bypass, but we've seen the learning curve is pretty fast," said Bart Ney, Caltrans' spokesman for the $6.2 billion project to retrofit and rebuild the Bay Bridge.
Ney credited drivers' smooth transitions to changes in the bridge approach to intensive education campaigns that include variable message boards, leafleting and high-tech visualizations of how the new lane configurations will work.
"In about a week's time, we expect things to be moving back the way they used to be," he said.
This morning motorists will also see an improvement to the approach: The Fifth Street on-ramp will be replaced by a longer, wider ramp that is not as steep as the old one.
Rerouting the three main lanes on I-80 leading onto the bridge will allow the contractor, Sylmar-based Tutor-Saliba Corp., to demolish the approach during two weeks starting Friday.
The demolition will make way in April for the final phase of the $429 million project to rebuild the Bay Bridge's western approach with a structure better able to survive a magnitude 8 earthquake. Once the old eastbound viaduct is demolished, it will take about a year for Tutor-Saliba Corp. to build the new structure, Ney said.
Copyright ©2007 Contra Costa Times. Published 03/28/2007.