Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today leads a delegation of local elected officials, state transportation leaders and other dignitaries to celebrate the latest milestone on the Bay Bridge West Approach: the opening of the new permanent structure carrying eastbound traffic to the span.
The “retrofit by replacement” of the West Approach involves removing the old 1930s era structure and replacing it with a new, seismically safe roadway — while continuing to accommodate some 250,000 vehicles a day. The opening of the new elevated roadway through the heart of San Francisco marks the final major traffic shift in the West Approach project, and the last shift from a temporary structure to a permanent one. For the past year, eastbound motorists have been diverted onto a winding temporary structure tucked beneath the roadway carrying westbound traffic. Beginning this weekend, eastbound travelers will enjoy unobstructed views and a straight shot onto the bridge.
“I am very proud right now because this new bridge is a powerful reminder that the people of California always rise to a challenge,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger, who will preside over a midday ribbon-cutting ceremony, and officially “open” the roadway by cutting a gold-plated chain with a blowtorch.
Retrofit work on the West Approach project, which is bounded by Fifth Street to the west and the San Francisco Anchorage at Beale Street to the east, has been underway since late 2002. In addition to removing and replacing the mile-long stretch of double-deck highway, the project involves the demolition and replacement of six on- and off-ramps.
“The work that everyone has done is unrivaled, as there are not many projects this complex,” said Dale Bonner, California Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary. “I am very proud of the agencies, contractors and workers who have made this a reality.”
Prior to retrofitting, the West Approach had an upper and lower deck configuration from 3rd Street to the San Francisco Anchorage, with a single foundation system supporting both decks. Each deck now has an independent column and foundation support system, a crucial aspect of making the structures seismically sound. Two parallel steel-and-concrete road decks comprise the freeway between Fifth Street and Third Street, where the new double-deck structure begins.
The entire West Approach project is slated for completion in early 2009. Remaining work includes demolishing the temporary eastbound structure, and reopening the Harrison Street on- and off-ramps.