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Commuters face 1st morning without Bay Bridge

  • Traffic slows in the morning commute going westbound on the Interstate 80 during the shutdown of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

SAN FRANCISCO — Commuters faced their first morning on Thursday without the workhouse San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but there weren't major traffic snarls as day broke across the Bay Area.

Alternate bridges to get into San Francisco were more crowded around 6:30 a.m., and Bay Area Rapid Transit trains appeared to be carrying a heavier load than usual. But commuters were managing to get around.

The bridge closed on Wednesday night, as preparations got under way to open the new $6.4 billion eastern span. After a long line of evening commuters took one last trip across San Francisco Bay, traffic slowed to a trickle and then the Depression-era bridge shut down as scheduled at about 8 p.m.

New Bay Bridge Span

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Although several drivers hung back in hopes of being the last car to cross the span, that honor went to a yellow Model A Ford driven by Bob Faber of Richmond, according to the Oakland Tribune.

The new crossing is expected to open late Monday or early Tuesday, but the exact timing is still being worked out, bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said.

The closure was expected to have region-wide effects on traffic; the Bay Bridge is used by about 280,000 vehicles each day. This weekend's closure is the fourth time in seven years that officials have shut the bridge down over the Labor Day weekend, when traffic is significantly lighter.

It's been nearly 24 years since the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake permanently damaged the existing eastern span, setting off a public works project marked by numerous delays, political fights over its design and complex engineering hurdles.

Transportation officials urged people to plan ahead for the closure. BART trains will run 24 hours starting Wednesday night, and bus and ferry service will also be bolstered to help people move around.

"Be patient, wherever you're going," said John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "We saw this same thing during the bridge closures in 2007 and 2009. The Bay Area keeps moving. It just becomes more sluggish."

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