OAKLAND -- Thanks to clear skies, the westbound Bay Bridge reopened Sunday, more than a day ahead of schedule, according to Caltrans.
Good weather and teamwork by contractors allowed the first car to cross the bridge at 7:15 p.m. Sunday, almost 34 hours early, said Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney.
"I was delighted to not have to make other plans," said Oakland resident Camille Dungy, a professor at San Francisco State. "I will use the bridge now.
"I had a plan set to use BART, but I work late Monday so it was going to be complicated," said Dungy, who commutes twice a week. She was also looking forward to the approach to the bridge after seeing crews working on Interstate 580.
Drivers crossing the westbound span will see new paving and lane striping for a quarter mile after the toll plaza.
The road now also curves left sooner after the toll plaza, although the turn is not as sharp as the S-curve, Ney said. The road moved between 30 and 40 feet.
The S-curve, where the speed limit drops to 40 miles per hour as drivers cross a temporary bridge section just before Yerba Buena Island, was added to the bridge during its closure over Labor Day weekend in 2009.
In addition to the paving, striping and guardrail work, contractors were also able to finish all the demolition work they could have done this weekend clearing portions of the old spans that are no longer in use, Ney said.
"It's like a face-lift is being done
BART saw its fifth-highest ridership ever for a Saturday -- 236,600 riders -- with the bridge closed, said BART spokesman Jim Allison.
That is about the same number of riders as BART sees on a quiet weekday, he said. Saturday ridership fluctuates wildly based on events, he said.
Early Sunday morning, during the hours BART is usually closed, 7,100 riders used the overnight trains BART added because of the closure, Allison said.
Anita Goldwasser avoided the Bay Bridge over the weekend for travel from San Jose to San Rafael, and noted the heavy traffic Saturday morning on Highway 101 southbound. And on Sunday afternoon for her return trip, she said there was also slow traffic southbound near the Golden Gate Bridge.
"I think it's fabulous that the Bay Bridge work was completed ahead of schedule," she noted. "It's so unusual for a public works project to be done earlier than expected. Thousands of commuters will be ecstatic."
Caltrans closed the westbound span of the Bay Bridge at 8 p.m. Friday, and it was scheduled to reopen at 5 a.m. Tuesday. The eastbound span remained open all weekend.
The closure boosted traffic on BART and the Golden Gate Bridge, officials said.
"The weather was a real big determiner of this work," said Greg Allen of MCM Construction, particularly the paving work.
The most difficult part of the closure was the preplanning and coordination. The initial schedule for the necessary work would have taken much more than three days, Ney said. Several contractors worked around-the-clock to finish the work.
The next time Caltrans plans to shut down the bridge is Labor Day 2013, when the new $6.3 million spans are scheduled to open.
In December, Caltrans contractors began stringing the cable over the new 525-foot tower for the self-anchored suspension span. When finished, that 2.6-foot-wide cable will weigh 5,291 tons.
Staff writer Joshua Melvin contributed to this report. Contact Paul Thissen at 925-847-2122. Follow him at Twitter.com/pthissen.