The recent warning about the threat of terror attacks at transit stations played a role in the decision to shut down streets around the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco on Monday.
Streets around the bus terminal, which stretches a city block between First and Fremont streets and faces Mission Street, were closed to vehicles and pedestrians for around 75 minutes and nearby buildings were evacuated while a police bomb squad X-rayed a bag left behind on a 5-Fulton bus around 10:45 a.m.
The dark blue duffel bag turned out to contain nothing more than women’s clothing, including a leather jacket, undergarments and leotards, CHP Officer Shawn Chase said.
A Muni operator discovered the bag during a routine sweep of the bus at the end of a trip, said Judson True, a spokesman for the transit agency.
But authorities made the decision to investigate further and close streets because of the bag’s large size and a nationwide terrorism warning issued last week, according to Chase. That warning came after a 24-year-old Denver airport shuttle driver who allegedly received al-Qaida training was found entering New York City earlier this month with bomb-making instructions on his computer.
Law enforcement officials last week said the man may have been plotting with others to detonate backpack bombs on New York trains.
“We’ve got to be vigilant,” Chase said.
Authorities are called to the area around the terminal about once a month because of suspicious packages and can usually quickly determine that the items found are harmless, he said.
The decision to close streets is always made on a case-by-case basis, he said. Responding agencies confer on whether to call in the bomb squad based on a package or bag’s size and location, and whether a terror warning is in place.
After Monday’s incident, streets reopened around 12:15 p.m.Muni routes 5-Fulton, 6-Parnassus, 10-Townsend, 14-Mission, 38-Geary and 108-Treasure Island were rerouted, according to True.
The California Highway Patrol closed the Fremont Street off-ramp into The City from westbound Interstate 80 during the investigation, Officer Kevin Kroncke said. Mission Street between Second and Beale streets was also closed.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.