Impact of Bay Bridge shutdown diminished

San Francisco merchants don’t expect any drastic business changes if Caltrans shuts down the Bay Bridge for four days during Labor Day weekend.

The state transportation department is planning to close both the east and west approaches to the Bay Bridge during the holiday weekend in September so workers can demolish a football-field-size portion of the upper deck and install a new seismically upgraded structure in its place.

The last time the Bay Bridge was entirely shut to traffic was after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Last year, Caltrans closed the eastbound deck of the bridge for three days.

Caltrans is reviewing whether the upcoming project will take three or four days to complete. If four days are needed, the bridge will likely be closed from late Friday, Aug. 31, to early Tuesday, Sept. 4. A decision should be made by mid-June, said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“Once we begin this operation, there will be no way to reopen the bridge until we complete the work,” Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said.

Earlier this week, Caltrans asked the Bay Area Council, a business-advocacy organization with 275 members, to collect feedback from its constituents about how a four-day closure would affect them.

Executives at 120 companies, including Wells Fargo, Safeway and the Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, responded to the council’s online survey. Of the respondents, 63 percent said the extended closure either wouldn’t impact them at all or very little. The other 37 percent of companies said the closure would have a medium-to-large negative impact on business.

“Those [businesses] that are related to tourism, restaurants and hotels were most worried about it,” said John Grubb, the council’s vice president of communications.

Most companies, he said, were concerned about employees who commute across the bridge, but he added that there shouldn’t be a significant impact if there is enough public transit available.

No matter how long the closure lasts, BART plans to operate overnight service at a few stations, said Linton Johnson, spokesman for the transit agency. However, trains will be less frequent, maybe only one an hour, during the night, he said.

arocha@examiner.com

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