An era came to an end on Wednesday night with a small symbolic act: a lone vintage Model T Ford rolled through the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza just past 8 p.m. and became the last car ever to traverse the 1930s-era bridge’s East Span. The passing of the final car signaled the start of a Labor Day weekend closure for the entire Bay Bridge corridor after which the replacement East Span will officially open up for traffic.
According to California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Daniel Hill, the closure of this normally busy artery went surprisingly smoothly, with the vast majority of residents seemingly aware of the closure and for the most part staying away as traffic was closed off. “It was extremely light traffic for a Wednesday night,” he said.
Within minutes of the closure, a parade of trucks and crews began to move in for the final demolition, realignment and paving necessary for the opening of the new East Span. The western end of the span will be aligned with the Yerba Buena Island tunnel, and the Oakland Touchdown at the eastern end will be connected to the toll plaza. Additional construction tasks include striping and installing barrier rails. Crews will also perform maintenance work on the West Span’s light fixtures and cable, and reconfigure the toll plaza.
At any given time, 400 workers are involved in the around-the-clock final construction, during which 2,000 truckloads of asphalt will be delivered, and 3,000 truckloads of debris will be carted away.
As the East Span gets ready to welcome car traffic, the Alexander Zuckermann Bike Path — named for the late East Bay bicycle activist — is being prepared for cyclists and pedestrians. A full 1,000-foot long section of the old East Span's upper deck must be taken down to make way for the bike path. Temporary wooden modules will be installed at the eastern end of the path to create access onto the bridge from the Oakland shoreline. The path is set to open Tuesday morning, September 3, although it will stop short of Yerba Buena Island. Once interfering pieces of the original East Span are demolished, a permanent bike path entrance will be built, and the 15.5-foot wide path will extend the entire distance to Yerba Buena Island.
The Labor Day Weekend opening of the bridge is the result of a Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee (TBPOC) meeting in mid-August. In a two-step action, the committee approved both an interim fix to the seismic system on the span — which will allow it to open to traffic sooner than previously expected — and the five-day closure necessary to complete construction.
BART is providing hourly all-night service to 14 stations during the closure in addition to its regular service, while ferry lines are also beefing up service. Travel and bridge updates are available throughout the long weekend atalert.511.org.
The opening of the new East Span will be marked with a chain-cutting ceremony on Labor Day. A major public celebration is being planned for a future date.