New west link for Bay Bridge up this weekend

Motorists tired of the snaky freeway approach from downtown San Francisco to the Bay Bridge will be alleviated of the muddling traffic route this weekend when a newly repaired permanent structure of the bridge’s west approach is opened.

The approach, a one-mile stretch of Interstate 80 connecting Fifth Street to the Bay Bridge’s west anchorage at Beale Street, had been substituted with a temporary structure since March 2007, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said. Construction workers had been repairing the original edifice as part of the bridge’s seismic retrofit project.

The repaired approach will officially open to traffic sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, Ney said. The much anticipated opening will come a little over 12 hours after a chain-cutting ceremony Friday morning with mayors Gavin Newsom and Ron Dellums.

Ney said there would be no traffic closures while the permanent structure is opened.

Unlike the original western approach, which offered a straight shot from Fifth Street to the Bay Bridge, the temporary structure featureda series of twists and turns to allow room for construction work that coincided with the seismic retrofit project, Ney said. Now completed, the approach will once again offer unmitigated passage for downtown drivers, he said.

“Most importantly, the repaired approach is now seismically stable,” he said.

The repaired structure is the centerpiece of a comprehensive western approach seismic retrofit that began in 2003. With some secondary projects still remaining — none that will affect traffic flow, Ney said — the entire retrofit should be completed by January, seven months ahead of schedule, said John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“It is one of the hardest transportation projects in state history,” Goodwin said of the western approach project. “It’s like performing heart surgery on a marathon runner.”

The total project cost of the western approach retrofit is $453.7 million, Goodwin said.

wreisman@examiner.com

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