Amid predictions that a convergence of events would tie a perfect traffic knot in Bay Area roadways Friday evening, a harmless albeit suspicious object on a Bay Bridge offramp started the grief early for commuters, with a Candlestick concert keeping roadways sealed as the night wore on.

California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Ferguson said the object on the bridge was gray, cylindric, and about the size of a soda bottle, sitting on the Treasure Island ramp.

"It looked like it could be dangerous, but in the end it turned out not to be a harmful device," he said.

That assessment probably didn't resonate with the commuters stuck in the snarl that reached its apex after both directions of the Bay Bridge were closed around 2:45 p.m. and reopened by 3:15 p.m.

CHP spokesman Officer Elon Steers said it's "fairly unusual" for them to completely shut down traffic on the bridge.

"We're required to take the necessary precautions to ensure everybody's safety," he said. "We value lives over a short, temporary effect on traffic."

Due to the traffic nightmare predictions, a lot of people chose to opt out of their cars, according to public transit officials. That included those destined for the Jay Z concert, which ended up being a large source of congestion shortly before it began.

"Right now we're trying to get as many people as we can to the concert at Candlestick," said Christopher Grabarkiewctz of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency around 7 p.m. "Traffic is congested, as you can imagine, so we put out a lot of extra bus service."


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He said Muni had 28 express buses for fans at the Balboa Park BART station, the transfer point to Candlestick. The agency had filled five articulated buses 45 minutes before the 7:30 p.m. showtime and still had 600 to 700 people waiting.

"Four or five times a year we get one of these perfect storms," Grabarkiewctz said. "It is pretty challenging, but we prepare for it."

Ellen Hyatt of Total Traffic Network monitoring service said at one point, roads into San Francisco were backed up along Interstate 80 to Pinole Valley Road in Pinole and nearly to the Caldecott Tunnel in Berkeley on Highway 24. Shortly after 6 p.m., she said it "looks like the morning commute" and by 9 p.m., "everything has finally calmed down," although she expected another deluge of drivers to cause localized backups when they hit the roads after the games and concerts let out.

The evening prediction of a car quagmire was based on numbers: 40,000 would be going to AT&T Park for the Giants, with another 25,000 ball fans across the bay going to see the A's. Candlestick Park would be attracting 53,000 screaming Jay Z and Justin Timberlake fans, while 15,000 would be flocking to see John Mayer at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View and 8,500 would be invading Berkeley's Greek Theatre for The Postal Service. In the South Bay, thousands were expected to make their way to the opening day of the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

But congestion in the East Bay and South Bay never materialized, according to CHP officials, and going into the city was bad but didn't compare with what was seen earlier. Maybe it was the Bay Bridge jam, or what some called the possibility of another "carmageddon" that scared people off, but as the evening wore on the feared backups lessened.

BART spokeswoman Luna Salaver said that compared with last Friday, the transit agency saw total ridership up by 12,000, with 5,300 more people getting off at the Coliseum and an additional 1,500 at the Embarcadero station.

Hours before at the Jay Z and Justin Timberlake show, early arrivers at Candlestick said they had taken precautions to make sure they had time to spare. The parking lot had hundreds of cars in by 4:30 p.m.

"I wouldn't be late for this -- no way in hell," said Julie Lynn Esmaeili, who left Modesto at noon with two friends in tow. "This will be my 18th time seeing Justin Timberlake."

Other fans agreed that hanging out in the fiercely windy parking lot was preferable to sitting in traffic.

"I didn't want to risk it," said Jenine Olea, of Santa Cruz, who began her trek north around 1 p.m. "I'd rather come, hang out and have lunch."

It wasn't only the sports and music fans who were affected.

At least three members of the Los Angeles Angels took BART to the Coliseum to buck potentially clogged roadways. Outfielder Josh Hamilton said that while the train was pretty packed, he didn't consider it an inconvenience.

"What do you think, I'm spoiled?" he quipped. "The Rangers used to only have one bus, so we took BART all the time. No one recognized me. It was cool."

At AT&T Park, some traffic-savvy Giants players who live in San Francisco already ride motor scooters to get to the park. Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who lives in the East Bay, said he was fortunate to leave home before the crunch.

"There was more traffic than usual but nothing too crazy," he said. "I was lucky, I got over here before the Bay Bridge closed."

Staff writers Erin Evie, Jim Harrington, Alex Pavlovic, John Hickey and Katie Nelson contributed to this report. Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.