Q In the past, the Bay Bridge and other road closures have been shorter than announced, as the schedule included a safety margin. For all of us returning to San Francisco on Labor Day, what do you think the chances are that the Bay Bridge will reopen late Monday rather than early Tuesday?
A I say the odds are very, very good. The bridge will close at 8 p.m. Wednesday and is scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3.
But in 2009 when the bridge was closed over Labor Day weekend to replace a 300-foot section towering over Yerba Buena Island, it reopened a day early.
Bridge officials say this upcoming work is not that difficult, and I'm betting they'll beat the 5 a.m. reopening target. And if you can pick the day and time the new span opens, you can win some toll money. Roadshow will pay $25 to the person who selects the day and time most closely. I'm guessing there will be more than one winner. In that case, I'll draw one name from a hat.
To enter the Roadshow bridge contest, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 408-920-5335. Deadline to enter is Wednesday 4 p.m.
And while we're on the subject, I could use your help. The big crunch may come Thursday, the first full day of the closing. Call the Mercury News Roadshow line at 408-920-5335 on Thursday to let us know how traffic was that day and what you did to cope with the shutdown of the second busiest bridge in the world. Did you take BART, the San Mateo Bridge, a sick day? Please leave a phone number and either I or another reporter will call you back.
Q With the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge opening, what can we expect and most importantly what improvements have been made (more toll booths, shoulders, lanes, etc.)? Please please tell me my commute will be shorter! My guess is the removal of the "S" curve alone will speed up the commute. Please give me some good news.
A No promise that the trip will be faster, as there will be the same number of lanes and the speed limit remains 50 mph. But bridge officials expect the trip to be more reliable. There will be full 10-foot shoulders on either side of both decks. There should be no discernible difference in travel times on good days, but more good days and fewer bad ones when a crash or stall blocks a lane.
And, of course, the notorious S-curve that slowed traffic will be gone, as will the 40-mph speed limit through that stretch.
Also, a new FasTrak-only lane is coming Monday for traffic coming in from Interstate 880 and West Grand Avenue. This replaces toll lane No. 17.
Q The family and I are going camping on Labor Day weekend at Clear Lake and we usually go what I call the back way -- 237/680/780/80.
I was wondering how you thought traffic might be given the fact that the Bay Bridge will be closed? I assume that the other bridges that span the bay will carry the brunt of traffic and I'm hoping that it won't be too crowded along the 680 corridor.
A Interstate 680 is often a mess on a holiday weekend, and this coming weekend will be no different. Avoid driving at peak times if you can and stay way from Highway 238, I-80 and I-880.
Q Why are they closing the Bay Bridge on a major holiday weekend, when tourists are likely to flood the city?
A Actually, the Labor Day weekend attracts fewer tourists than most weekends all year.
Q Will the entire bridge be closed over Labor Day weekend, or just the eastern span? Can people get to or from Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island on those days?
A The entire bridge will be closed in both directions. Access passes will be distributed to Treasure Island residents and businesses, allowing them to travel to and from San Francisco only.
These passes will have to be shown to the CHP and/or San Francisco police staffing the onramp checkpoint.