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Both the new and old eastern spans of the Bay Bridge are photographed in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. According to Caltrans, progress continues to remain on schedule on the third day of the bridge closure. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Contractors out on the bustling Bay Bridge construction zone spent their third full day tearing out more old bridge deck, laying down new asphalt and painting shiny white striping as they worked around the clock toward the scheduled Tuesday 5 a.m. opening.

And, we are told, the mischievous Bay Bridge troll, spirited off the bridge in the midst of all the construction hustle and bustle, will take its rightful place alongside the dignitaries for Monday's 3 p.m. chain-cutting ceremony.

The work included a thorough cleaning of the upper and lower tunnels through Yerba Buena Island, starting with hot water and moving on to a cleaning solution if necessary. Crews are also installing new LED lights that will match those on the replacement eastern span.

"It's dirty," MCM Construction project manager Greg Allen said. "But it's not too bad."

The vital Bay Area transportation link shut down to traffic Wednesday night for its fourth and final Labor Day weekend. Contractors needed the time to realign Interstate 80 with the new $6.4 billion eastern span while Caltrans seized the car-free time to maintain and inspect the western span and the Yerba Buena Island tunnel.

In other work Saturday, crews continued hacking and torching away a 1,000-foot piece of the upper westbound deck of the old eastern span to make room for the temporary pedestrian and bicycle path. Once that section of the old deck is gone, contractors will use very large cranes to lift the prefabricated path sections into place.


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The pathway is scheduled to open Tuesday at noon although it will stop short of Yerba Buena Island until 2015, when the old cantilevered section of the span is removed.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Officer Daniel Hill urged drivers to use caution when using the short eastbound on-ramp to merge into traffic from Yerba Buena Island once the new bridge opens. It will be replaced with full-length ramps when the old bridge is gone.

"It's a very short on-ramp, then a stop sign and then a short merge," Hill said. "It's going to difficult to get on the freeway at first. We want to urge motorists to be careful."

But the new span does offer motorists an improved drive.

From just outside the east entrance to the tunnel, Bay Bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon on Saturday directed reporters on a tour to look eastward.

"Headed east, you have a clear shot out of the tunnel," he said. "And very quickly, you are in daylight and on the same level as westbound traffic. Before, all you saw was the S-curve."

Although that vision is clear, it remains to be seen where the troll will end up after Monday's ceremonial event, as a tug of war has developed over the 18-inch hunk of metal.

It occurred when some workers decided to take matters into their own hands and removed the good-luck charm, surreptitiously affixed by ironworkers to the eastern span after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

But representatives of MCM Construction and American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises, two of the new bridge's major contractors, got into a heated yelling match over who should take possession of it, sources confirm.

A CHP officer negotiated a temporary custody agreement, and the troll is currently getting a "shave and a haircut" in preparation for its appearance at Monday's ceremony.

It is still unclear, however, where the charm will permanently reside or even who actually holds legal title to the small sculpture by San Francisco blacksmith Bill Roan, although bridge officials say there are no plans to place the gargoyle onto the new span.

Follow Lisa Vorderbrueggen at Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen. Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter.com/kjbender. Follow Gary Peterson at Twitter.com/garyscribe.