Bay Area travelers should start planning now to use alternate bridges or public transit during Labor Day weekend since the Bay Bridge will be closed throughout the holiday.
The bridge will be closed in both directions from 8 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Tuesday, California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said. </p>
Caltrans is going to be replacing a 350-foot, 6,500-ton section of the bridge just east of the Yerba Buena Island tunnel. The new section of the westbound viaduct is part of a seismic retrofit that Caltrans has been performing on the bridge.
During the bridge closure many public transit systems will extend their service hours to accommodate travelers. AC Transit, the Alameda/Oakland, Golden Gate and allejo BayLink ferries, as well as Golden Gate Transit have scheduling or route changes to augment their normal service.
Bay Area Rapid Transit will be running trains 24 hours a day during the closure, spokesman Linton Johnson said. The trains, which usually shut down around midnight, will continue to run Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights so that commuters can travel across the bridge during the closure.
However, after midnight trains will run hourly and only 14 stations will be open. Riders can visit http://www.bart.gov for scheduling information.
If public transit systems lose profits this weekend because of their extended services Caltrans will reimburse the agencies, Johnson said.
Crews will be using 12 concrete saws to cut the existing westbound lanes into pieces for removal. If the saws fail crews have jackhammers standing by, but the saws are more efficient, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said.
Once the existing roadway is demolished special tracks will be laid to slide the retrofitted lanes into place. The new roadway is already constructed and waiting just south of the freeway.
According to Ney, Caltrans has a variety of contingency plans in place to ensure that the construction is complete by 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Extra crews and equipment will be standing by in case the project is taking longer than expected, and Caltrans has allotted 15 hours at the end of their time schedule to deal with problems that arise.
“Problems are always going to come up on a project of this size, but we think that we have enough back up plans to make sure that the bridge will be open for traffic Tuesday morning,'' Ney said.
If the worst happens and the bridge is not ready for cars Tuesday morning regional transit will continue to run on their extended service schedules.
Construction to make the bridge seismically sound is expected to be done in 2013, Ney said. There will be further major closures of the bridge in late 2008 or early 2009.
The Bay Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in the world, Ney said, carrying between 250,000 and 300,000 vehicles per day. However, there is around 20 percent less traffic during Labor Day weekend, which is why Caltrans chose this weekend to complete major renovations.
Caltrans will also be installing new FasTrak-only lanes at the Bay Bridge toll plaza during the closure, Ney said. The striping for lanes will be extended by 2,000 feet so that drivers have more warning as they approach the plaza.
New signs will be added as well so that at peak hours an additional FasTrak lane can be added. Crews will also be performing general maintenance and construction on the toll plaza while it is closed to traffic.
Travelers can dial 511 or log onto http://www.511.com to get the latest traffic and transit information duringthe holiday weekend.
— Bay City News