It's done. The Bay Bridge is officially closed. Although a handful of drivers hung back and tried to be the last car to cross the span, that honor went to a yellow Model A Ford driven by Bob Faber of Richmond.
Once Faber left the Toll Plaza at 8:07 p.m. Wednesday bound for San Francisco, it became all about construction.
All those dire warnings must have paid off. Traffic was very light across the bridge all day, and it only took the CHP 28 minutes to clear the traffic leading up to the scheduled 8 p.m. closure.
"The goal is to have no other traffic on the bridge other than construction crews at 8 p.m.," said CHP spokesman Daniel Hill an hour before the shutdown began.
In a 9 p.m. Bay Bridge closure update at the Toll Plaza, CHP spokesman Daniel Hill expressed hope for a smooth Thursday morning commute based on how smoothly the shutdown went.
"It seemed that everyone got the message and found alternative routes," Hill said.
Few even attempted to bypass the CHP rolling traffic breaks, he said.
With traffic cleared off the bridge by 8:26 p.m., contractors wasted no time getting to work, bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon told the media.
Massive grinders moved onto the empty Toll Plaza approach lanes where they will first remove from 2 to 6 inches of pavement in preparation for the installation of a stormwater drainage system and lane realignment.
Construction trucks had already begun staging at the toll plaza hours Wednesday afternoon, to be ready to move in as soon as the last car left the span.
Contractors immediately began 24/7 work to pave, grade and realign travel lanes in Oakland and Yerba Buena Island with the new bridge.
Over the five-day shutdown, crews must then demolish a 1,000-foot section of the old westbound Interstate 80 and build new lanes that will tie the freeway to the new bridge. A temporary wooden bike and pedestrian trestle will also be installed.
Over on Yerba Buena Island, contractors are placing a protective coating on the pavement.
Contractors MCM, Flatiron West and OC Jones are doing the bulk of the work.
They will have their work cut out for them.
At the peak of construction in the next five days, as many as 400 workers will be on the site. They will have to shepherd through 2,000 truckloads of asphalt weighing a total of 14,500 tons being delivered from a Pleasanton plant.
Approximately 1.2 million square feet of pavement surface will be ground down for the drainage system and to prepare it for new asphalt. Nearly 3,000 truckloads of concrete grindings and construction debris will be taken out, and 10,000 feet of traffic barrier rail, or K-rail, will
The shiny new and seismically safer $6.4 billion span is set to open by 5 a.m. Tuesday at the latest, but it could possibly open Monday night if the work is done early. As it is, the official chain-cutting ceremony will occur at 3 p.m. Monday, so stay tuned for updates then.
In the final minutes Wednesday night, a few motorists hollered as they drove through the toll booth and others honked, although it's impossible to say why.
One Richmond man showed up at the Toll Plaza parking lot wearing a "Free Leonard" shirt. He said he had no beef with the new bridge, but wanted to advertise his support for freeing jailed Native American Leonard Peltier.
Model A Ford Club of America member Bob Faber of Richmond was the last driver across the span, although he said he had no idea how he will return home with the bridge closed. Golden Gate, perhaps?
During the closure drivers can expect longer drive times, more crowded freeways and local congestion around the 15 closed freeway onramps in Oakland and San Francisco. For those who opt to drive the long way around via the other toll bridges, experts advise adding an hour or more to the drive time between San Francisco and the East Bay.
Better yet, let someone else do the driving. BART, AC Transit and the ferry operators are running extra service throughout the closure. For transportation options, call 511 or visit 511.org.
Here's a look at the closure plans, courtesy of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee:
8 p.m., Wednesday -- Entire Bay Bridge closes to traffic. Contractors begin demolishing westbound approach in Oakland to make room for the bike and pedestrian path connector, and start grinding and paving operations. Lights in Yerba Buena Island tunnel will be replaced with LEDs.
Thursday -- Realignment work kicks in high gear on eastern side, while maintenance and inspection of the western span and tunnel begins.
Friday -- Contractor applies polyester protective roadway coating on the travel lanes near the tunnel.
Saturday -- Demolition of westbound approach in Oakland nears completion. West span maintenance and inspection continues.
Sunday -- Lane striping and temporary bike and pedestrian path trestle installation starts on Oakland side.
Monday -- More lane striping, bike path installation and barrier rail placement. Operations nearing completion and clean up ensues.
3 p.m., Monday -- Invitation-only chain-cutting ceremony on the span near the Toll Plaza.
Sometime late Monday up until 5 a.m. Tuesday -- Final work and clean up performed. Caltrans begins removing connector ramp barrier cones in San Francisco and Oakland, and CHP gradually escorts vehicles onto the new bridge until all five lanes are open.
Noon, Tuesday -- Bike and pedestrian path opens. Visitors will be able to walk or cycle partway across the span. The path will be open from dawn until dusk seven days a week. The final connection to Yerba Buena Island should be completed by 2015.
-- Staff writer Kristin J. Bender and Daniel M. Jimenez contributed to this story.