Happy commuters, bridge gawkers and history makers will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk from Oakland to San Francisco across the Bay Bridge under a proposed Labor Day grand opening celebration of the new eastern span.
"A public celebration of the new Bay Bridge is absolutely the right thing to do," said Bay Area Toll Authority spokesman Randy Rentschler. "The Bay Bridge is where Loma Prieta made itself most known and the new span is an incredible symbol of what this state has done to make its bridges safe."
Set to go before the authority in a public meeting next week, the plan calls for accommodating as many as 125,000 walkers on the day before the span opens to traffic.
Residents will be required to sign up for the free time-specific tickets. Think Disneyland's Fastpass, except for the free part. It is a one-way walk, too. Once in San Francisco, participants must take BART or some other mode of transportation back to the East Bay.
Sign up for notification of Bay Bridge ticket availability and other information at http://baybridgecelebration.com.
The bridge stroll will come on the fourth and final day of the scheduled full bridge closure.
Caltrans must shut down the existing span to traffic three days earlier -- 8 p.m. on Aug. 28 -- to allow the contractor to connect the new span to the highway connector ramps at the Oakland end and at Yerba Buena Island. The new bridge is set to open to traffic on or before 5 a.m. on Sept. 3.
The authority proposes to use toll receipts to pay the $5.6 million public access price tag, which includes $1.9 million for buses; $865,000 for portable toilets, $955,000 for security and access control; and $510,000 for registration and ticketing expenses.
Richmond-based Hartmann Studios would run the event for the authority. The company was responsible for putting on the San Francisco Giants' World Series victory parade and is working on San Francisco's 2016 Olympics bid. It also produces Oracle World on Treasure Island.
Other bridge opening events such as a marathon, bicycle race and fireworks show will be funded through private dollars raised by the Bay Bridge Alliance.
The Bay Area Toll Authority's oversight committee will consider the Hartmann Studios contract on Feb. 13 at 9:30 a.m. in its Oakland headquarters. The full board is expected to make a decision Feb. 27.