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Bay Bridge Bike and Pedestrian Path Now Open (Video)

| September 3, 2013
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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom cuts a chain with a blow torch to ceremonially open the Bay Bridge on Sept. 2. He is flanked by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. (Photo by Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom cuts a chain with a blowtorch to ceremonially open the Bay Bridge on Sept. 2. He is flanked by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Guide: How to Get to That Stunning New Bay Bridge Bike Path

Update 4:05 p.m. KQED’s Bryan Goebel reports:

The bicycle and pedestrian path is now open on the new Bay Bridge eastern span.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and other East Bay mayors cut a bicycle chain to mark the official opening of the Alexander Zuckermann Bicycle-Pedestrian Path. Even though it won’t go all the way to Yerba Buena Island until 2015, Quan said, “Just enjoying that will become the experience that people all over the area, and probably the world, will want to have.”

The path is named after a tireless East Bay bicycle advocate who died in 2007. His son, David Zuckermann, was there for today’s events.

“It’s just like a dream, really,” Zuckermann said. “I think it’s just more beautiful than you could imagine.”

The 2-mile path on the south side of the new eastern span takes you to just west of the tower. It’s accessible by bicycle and foot from Emeryville and West Oakland and open from sunrise to sunset.

Bay Bridge Trail Map

And if you can’t quite get there yourself, KQED Science has put up this video of the newly opened path, shot with Google Glass and sped up to twice its normal playback speed.

Update Tuesday 8:33 a.m.

From the Chronicle this morning:

The Bay Bridge debuted its new, towering east span Tuesday, but the morning commute is no different than normal.

Traffic across the bridge is typical of a weekday, the California Highway Patrol reported Tuesday morning. Cars were bumper to bumper at the toll plaza early and the speed across the bridge was about 40 mph, the CHP said.

KQED’s Dan Brekke gave this report from earlier in the commute, around 7 a.m.

For whatever reason, the commute down the Eastshore Freeway through Berkeley seemed to get heavy and slow earlier than usual this morning. It could have been a surge of people returning to work after Labor Day. Or maybe it was a deliberate slowdown in the pace of the metering lights at the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza to feed traffic onto the new span more deliberately than usual. Or perhaps something unknown. Or all of the above.

I caught a ride in the casual carpool from North Berkeley with a Prius driver who is very … deliberate. Traffic looked terrible from the University Avenue overpass and was backed up on the entrance ramp. But she worked her way over to the carpool lane toward the bridge without much of a problem, and from there we cruised — first slowly, then almost at the speed limit — all the way on to the bridge. Traffic on the span itself seemed lighter and calmer than usual with little of the jockeying and lane changing you expect in the morning commute. Then, as the new bridge’s suspension tower came into view, everyone seemed to slow down to take in the sight. Even though the California Highway Patrol has been warning people not to use the new right-hand shoulder unless they have an emergency, I saw one driver parked there, apparently enjoying a stop-and-gawk moment.

After that, the bridge returned to normal as we passed through the cleaned-up Yerba Buena tunnel. Having gotten their first look at the new bridge, most drivers seemed to step on it as they emerged onto the western suspension span.

The Contra Costa Times reports that the CHP said one driver already had been arrested for DUI in the wee hours, near the toll plaza, and “another driver was caught stopped on the old eastern section of the bridge taking photographs,  (CHP Officer Sam) Morgan said. The driver apparently accessed the old span by way of Yerba Buena Island.”

KQED’s Joanne Elgart Jennings took this video last night of the first cars driving over the new span:

Here’s a time-lapse video of the opening procession, from the Bay Area News Group:

Update 10:15 p.m.: From Bay City News:

The Bay Bridge, complete with a newly constructed eastern span, opened hours earlier than scheduled, transit officials said.

The bridge had been closed since last Wednesday night while construction crews finalized work on the new eastern span connecting Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.

The bridge was scheduled to be reopened by 5 a.m. Tuesday but the  work was finished faster than anticipated, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said Monday.

Dougherty made the announcement at a celebration held in Oakland this afternoon for the new span, a self-anchored suspension bridge that is replacing an old cantilever bridge that opened more than 75 years ago.

 

Update 8:45 p.m.:

Update 6:00 p.m.: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, flanked by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, ceremonially opened the Bay Bridge after cutting its chain with a blowtorch.

The California Highway patrol is leading a procession of classic cars with officials and dignitaries across the bridge.

Still no word on the exact time the bridge will open to the public tonight.

Update 4:45 p.m.: Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty just announced during the ceremonial opening of the new eastern span that the bridge will open tonight, far ahead of the scheduled opening time at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning. Dougherty did not give a time for the opening, so we’re still waiting for that crucial detail. Stay tuned.

Update 4:15 p.m.:  Speaking at the Bay Bridge reopening ceremony, Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said, “We are opening the new bridge before the next earthquake, and thank God.”

“None of us will forget that, first and foremost, the new east span is a public safety project,” Heminger said. “And despite the journey’s length, it has been completed before the arrival of our next big earthquake.”

“The contributions that this bridge will make to the Bay Area are enormous,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).

“I was elected in 1989, and I have been waiting for this day along with all of you,” Lee said.

Update 3 p.m.: The Bay Bridge reopening ceremony is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Here’s an earlier report from Bay City News on the impending bridge opening:

Caltrans officials will consider today whether to open the eastern span of the Bay Bridge before its scheduled debut at 5 a.m. Tuesday, a bridge spokesman said this morning.

The state public transit agency, which is putting finishing touches such as lane painting on the 2.2-mile span, will assess how close they are to completing the project, bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said at a news conference in Oakland.

A worker walks on the bike path next to the new Bay Bridge self-anchored suspension tower. After nearly 12 years of construction and an estimated price tag of $6.4 billion, the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge will open tonight. The new self-anchored suspension tower is the world's largest. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A worker walks on the bike path next to the new Bay Bridge self-anchored suspension tower. After nearly 12 years of construction and an estimated price tag of $6.4 billion, the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge will open tonight. The new self-anchored suspension tower is the world’s largest. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A decision could be made about an earlier opening by 3 p.m. today, when dignitaries including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee are to attend a private opening ceremony and cut a golden chain at about 4:30 p.m. to celebrate the bridge’s completion, Gordon said.

But as of this morning, Caltrans officials were still looking at opening the bridge at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Gordon said.

The California Highway Patrol will deploy officers on the bridge once it opens to make sure motorists are following the 50 mph speed limit and are not pulling over to look at the bridge, Officer Daniel Hill said.

After the bridge does open, CHP officers in patrol cars will be blocking lanes in front of traffic to keep auto speed “nice and low,” Hill said.

CHP officers want to make sure that drivers do not succumb to the temptation of stopping to view the new bridge while driving on it, and anyone who blocks traffic will be cited, Hill said.

“The opening may come as a surprise for the motoring public,” Hill said.

And here’s the Associated Press scene-setter on the opening of the new eastern span:

There will be no public celebration with tens of thousands of pedestrians and fireworks when the ribbon is cut on the new, $6.4 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on Monday. Instead, after years of delays and cost overruns, the inauguration of the one of the state’s most expensive public works projects will be marked with a relatively low-key event that may not even include the governor.

While the new eastern span of the bay bridge is being put into place, the western span was covered with maintenance workers over the weekend. (Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

While the new eastern span of the bay bridge is being put into place, the western span was covered with maintenance workers over the weekend. (Photo by Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

“People are tired, but everyone’s very excited,” bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said on Monday morning. “It’s kind of this last lap so to speak, the last leg of this marathon. We are all looking forward to getting to the finish line.”

The invitation-only inauguration is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m., with a formal chain-cutting ceremony 90 minutes later. About 20 cars, ranging from vintage models to modern electric vehicles, are then expected to take a spin across the span.

Government officials, labor leaders, survivors of the 1989 earthquake that collapsed two 50-foot sections of the old eastern span and people who were alive when the Bay Bridge first opened in 1936 are expected to attend. Gov. Jerry Brown, who was closely involved in planning the bridge when he was mayor of Oakland, is expected to skip the ceremony to be with his wife at a family gathering in Michigan.

The new span and the rest of the bridge will not immediately be opened to traffic. It closed on Wednesday night so crews could do final work, and they were still striping, putting up signs and putting down roadway markers on Monday, Gordon said. Some barrier railing also needed to be put up.

The bridge is scheduled to open to traffic by 5 a.m. on Tuesday, though it could open earlier. Gordon said a decision will be made on Monday afternoon and could be announced at the ceremony.

The new section of bridge, designed to make the span safe during earthquakes, has been under construction for almost a decade and follows years of political bickering, engineering challenges and cost overruns. It replaced a structure that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

In March more than two dozen rods, used to anchor the roadway to important earthquake safety structures, cracked after they were tightened. The discovery threatened to delay the bridge’s opening by months.

The bridge will open with a temporary fix for the broken rods while the permanent repair, expected to be completed in December, is being installed.

Transportation officials approved the temporary fix last month and voted to open the bridge as originally planned around the Labor Day weekend.

But Gordon said on Monday that there was not enough time for a public celebration.

Plans for such a celebration originally called for a bridge walk with more than 100,000 people, fireworks, a half-marathon and a concert.

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