Bridges

I’ve always had a soft spot for bridges. Especially at night, with their spans alight, there’s something about them that reminds me of massive jewels stretching across the blackness. California’s most famous bridge is probably the Golden Gate, which has become an iconic piece of architecture. Of course, the Golden Gate is also a bitch to commute on, thanks to the fact that it doesn’t have an adequate number of lanes to cope with increased traffic. And those terrifying little pegs instead of proper dividers to separate the traffic. If you’ve ever been in the center of the Golden Gate during rush hour, you know the terror of the pegs, which are alarmingly easy to knock out. In addition, the south-bound toll is $5, more than other Bay Area bridges (which are all around $3). As a side note, I think it’s very interesting that drivers must pay to leave Oakland and the East Bay, while leaving San Francisco is free.

I’ve been spending a lot of time around the Bay Bridge lately, either directly on it or seeing it loom over Treasure Island. I rather like the Bay Bridge. It’s a workhorse, unlike the flashy (and expensive to paint) Golden Gate, and it carries a great deal of traffic daily. The Bay Bridge says “here there is work to be done,” and the Golden Gate says “yay, vacation!” The construction being done on the Eastern Span is also very easy to see from the Island. It’s quite a thing to behold. Big construction gets me all excited inside. I think I may have missed my calling.

California readers may be aware that CalTrans is closing the bridge for an unprecedented amount of time this weekend: from 11:59pm on Friday night to 5am on Tuesday morning. In theory, this is supposed to mean that the muddle of exits, entrances, and traffic accidents waiting to happen on the Western approach are going to be demolished and streamlined. The look of the bridge is going to change dramatically.

There are signs up all over the City, on public transit, and on huge banners strategically located everywhere. One would have to be rather dense to miss the fact that the bridge is going to be closed over Labour Day weekend. On the Island, the leasing company sent out information fliers reminding residents that the eastbound spans would be closed–which means that they can still get into San Francisco, but they’re going to have a hard time getting back to the Island–residents are forced to go all the way around the Bay. Apparently the transit system will be making limited runs, so people won’t be trapped on the Island, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be much fun. For once I’m actually glad that I’ll be in Fort Bragg.

The pressing question for most of us is this: why on earth would CalTrans close the Bay Bridge, one of the busiest commuter bridges in the country, over Labour Day weekend? CalTrans that traffic is not as heavy over Labour Day weekend, and that because of the holiday on Monday (I hope the CalTrans workers are making overtime), the work can be completed in three days, rather than in two separate weekends. At this point, however, everyone is dying to know what’s going to happen when the bridge is closed. Will all havoc break loose?

Already, there’s been widespread grumbling because, as on most weekends, a variety of public and private events are scheduled all over the Bay, and attending them just got a lot more complicated. It’s true, the work on the bridge does need to be done–but the masses are restless. I also find it hard to believe that traffic decreases during Labour Day. I understand that CalTrans uses traffic analysis and all that sort of thing, and presumably would know what’s up, but it seems unlikely to me that everyone stays home over the three day weekend. On the contrary, many people come into the City to amble around. People from out of town come in to take advantage of the extra day. And I seem to recall that traffic would always be backed up around Labour Day.

Is CalTrans full of it? I suppose there’s only one way to find out. But if I were you, I’d stay the hell out of the Bay Area this weekend, since it’s going to be a tangle of infuriated and frustrated drivers.

[Bay Bridge]