While other roads in the region were clogged with cars during this morning's commute, traffic on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge remained light after a surprise 7 a.m. reopening, a California Highway Patrol spokesman said.
After announcing Monday that the four-day construction closure over Labor Day weekend would be extended to Wednesday morning, California Department of Transportation officials caught Bay Area commuters off guard with an announcement that both decks would reopen by 7 a.m., only two hours later than originally planned.
The closure was extended after Caltrans discovered a crack in the bridge's eastern span and apparently the fix was much faster and or easier than they thought.
CHP spokesman Sam Morgan said he drove both the upper and lower deck shortly after 8 a.m. Traffic was light, he said, probably because "many individuals had alternate routes planned today."
CHP has extra patrols on the scene in case motorists have difficulty navigating the temporary new S-shaped curve installed to the east of the tunnel on Yerba Buena Island. The speed limit has been dropped to 40 and 35 mph on that stretch, Morgan said.
So far, he said, motorists are navigating the curves well and are generally obeying the reduced speed limit, which is posted on multiple signs.
"They don't really have a choice," he said. "If you hit that curve too fast, it's going to be a skid."
Drivers heading east should be especially cautious, he said, because they will be coming directly out of a tunnel when they first encounter the sharp curves.
"It might be a little more challenging because of the reduced visibility," Morgan said.
Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said that crews realized around 5 a.m. that it would be possible to reopen the bridge this morning. The delay was caused by a missing piece necessary to repair a crack in an eyebar spotted during an inspection over the weekend.
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On Monday evening, when Caltrans announced the new Wednesday reopening, "we had to fabricate a new piece for the fix, and we didn't have the fabricator yet," Ney said.
One of the subcontractors working on the bridge opened up its shop on Oakland's Pier 7 overnight to build the necessary piece, he said.
The repair had to be fully inspected before Caltrans could even think of reopening the bridge, Ney said. When inspectors gave the all-clear early this morning, "it became a scramble to clean up the bridge and put it in working order," he said.
Caltrans will also have additional crews and tow trucks on the bridge to clear any stalls quickly.