OAKLAND -- Friday commuters once again heeded the ubiquitous "Bay Bridge closed" warnings and sought alternate ways to get to work, logged in from home or perhaps tacked an extra day onto the long holiday weekend.

Traffic was a little sluggish in all the usual spots, such as the San Mateo Bridge, but mostly flowed smoothly, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Daniel Hill.

Out on the car-free Bay Bridge, where Caltrans and its contractors were deep into their second full day realigning Interstate 80 with the new bridge on both ends, it was a different kind of congestion.

Asphalt trucks, tractors, loaders, dump trucks, graders, cranes and every type of construction vehicle imaginable roared and rolled across the landscape. The changeable message signs read "Sign test," awaiting real live information once the bridge opens. Dwarfed by the massive equipment, contractors and inspectors clad in neon orange and green safety vests and hard hats bustled around on foot.

The construction is on track since the bridge closed to traffic at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and there have been no setbacks that could jeopardize the bridge's planned reopening at 5 a.m. Tuesday, bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said.

Richard Grabinski with Flatiron West, the contractor responsible for the grinding and paving work at the Bay Bridge toll plaza, said the grinding work was completed and the paving scheduled to be finished Friday.


Advertisement

Caltrans also is making the equivalent of hay while the sun shines and 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."

Dozens of maintenance crew members and their cherry-pickers and flatbed trucks dotted the upper and lower decks.

On the upper deck, for example, crew members hung in a "spider basket" suspended 100 feet up the side of one of the towers, where they were repairing a failed air compression line, Caltrans bridge maintenance manager James Province Jr. explained.

But before the closure started Wednesday, Province and his team scoped out the new span, where they will soon take responsibility for its upkeep. They've walked up the cable and checked out its bells and whistles, he said.

"I'm real excited to get the 'keys' to the bridge on Tuesday morning," Province said.

What will be his crew members' first maintenance task on the new bridge?

"It be the same task we do on the all the toll bridges -- pick up trash," he said. "But that's another story."

CHP spokesman Daniel Hill said Thursday's delays averaged 10 to 15 minutes at the Richmond-San Rafael, Golden Gate and San Mateo bridges.

Those who choose BART had an easier time, and crowded train cars flowed in and out of San Francisco and the East Bay throughout the evening and all day Friday. Lots of bikes were seen onboard.

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 Giants' 2010 and 2012 World Series parades in downtown San Francisco.

Throughout the bridge closure, with the exception of early Tuesday, BART will run trains 24 hours a day. During normal off hours, from 1 to 4 a.m., trains will stop at 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.

On Wednesday, motorists crossed the existing eastern span, which opened in 1936, for the final time. Many posted nostalgic messages on social media, along with pictures of their final trip.

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.

Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773 or lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.