BAY AREA -- Friday's commuters once again heeded the warnings and sought alternate ways to get to work, or perhaps extended the holiday or worked from the comfort of their own homes. Traffic was a little sluggish in all the usual spots, such as the San Mateo Bridge, but mostly flowing smoothly.
There was a different kind of congestion on the car-free bridge, which closed for the long weekend just after 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Asphalt trucks, tractors, loaders, dump trucks, graders, cranes and every type of construction vehicle imaginable roared and rolled across the landscape.
Dwarfed by the massive equipment, contractors and inspectors clad in neon orange and green safety vests and hard hats bustled around on foot.
The work to realign the new bridge with I-80 at both ends is going well, and there have been no setbacks that could jeopardize the bridge's planned reopening at 5 a.m. Tuesday, bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said.
And, if all goes better than planned, the bridge could open earlier.
Richard Grabinski with Flatiron West, the contractor responsible for the grinding and paving work at the Bay Bridge toll plaza, said his crews had completed their work on both decks and finished the paving near the toll plaza. Striping work started Friday.
Demolition of the 1,000-foot eastbound lanes on the old span near Oakland is well underway, Gordon said at a Friday afternoon briefing. Once the demolition is complete, crews will connect a temporary ramp that will bicyclists and pedestrians to travel the eastern span of the bridge; a connection to Yerba Buena Island will be completed in 2015.
At Yerba Buena Island, paving work has been completed on the westbound lanes and workers were likely to finish the eastbound lanes Friday night. A temporary ramp to connect the highway with the island has also been paved.
Caltrans is also getting months' worth of maintenance and inspections on the western span done while the bridge is closed, including sandblasting and replacing old lights with more energy-efficient LED bulbs.
"We can get done in three or four days with no traffic what it takes us three or four months to do at night," Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus told reporters Friday during a media tour of the west span. "This is a real luxury for us."
During the five-day closure about 3,000 truckloads of ripped-up asphalt will be carted off the bridge as 2,000 truckloads of new asphalt will be brought in and used to repave sections of the bridge. In all, 84,000 tons of asphalt will be trucked out, and 56,000 tons of asphalt trucked in.
For folks heading into or out of the city for several events this weekend BART will run trains 24 hours a day. During normal off hours, between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., trains will stop at 14 select stations between Concord and SFO Airport and Del Norte Station in El Cerrito and Dublin/Pleasanton. All trains will meet at transfer station MacArthur BART in North Oakland.
According to BART Spokesman Jim Allison, Thursday was the third busiest in the system's 40-year history, surpassed only by the crowds attending the SF Giants' 2010 and 2012 World Series parades in downtown San Francisco.
The worst traffic Friday was eastbound on the San Mateo Bridge and northbound on Highway 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge, CHP Officer Daniel Hill said at the Friday afternoon briefing. Eastbound traffic counts on the San Mateo Bridge were up 57 percent and up 13 percent on the Golden Gate. Hill said people were trying to get out of town for holiday.
Motorists should plan extra time for any traveling they'll be doing over the weekend, Hill said; it's impossible to predict exactly where traffic might back up. CHP officers will be out on a maximum enforcement campaign all weekend.
On Wednesday, motorists crossed the existing eastern span, which opened in 1936, for the final time. Many posted nostalgic messages to social media, along with pictures of their final trip.
They'll have few years yet to gaze upon the old silver cantilevered bridge, or at least parts of it, as it will take that long to dismantle the structure piece by piece. It must be dismantled in the precise opposite order in which it was erected, said bridge consulting engineer Sajid Abbas with TY Lin International, or the whole thing could collapse.
That's why the new bike/pedestrian bridge will stop short of Yerba Buena Island until 2015. The 50 million pound steel cantilevered section near the island is very close to the new span and the path can't be completed until that section comes down.
Preparation for the $240 million deconstruction began months ago as engineers and contractors contemplated how to take down a bridge built with fatigued World War I-era steel without killing anyone or dropping the lead-painted pieces into the bay, and do it before the Big One hits.
The old steel truss bridge is like a cocked bow and arrow, explained Caltrans bridge engineer Brian Maroney. Its pieces push and pull on each other at strategic points. Sever the wrong beam, and it could trigger a catastrophic failure that could kill people and pollute the bay.