SAN FRANCISCO – It will be trains, boats or roundabout routes, all of them packed, for Bay Area commuters as the long weekend shutdown of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge spills into the workweek.
The bridge was scheduled to reopen Tuesday morning after crews discovered a crack Saturday. The target has been pushed back to 5 a.m. Wednesday, said Randy Iwasaki, director of the California Department of Transportation.
"We are going to need your patience for one more day," Iwasaki said Monday.
The 73-year-old bridge, which carries about 260,000 vehicles a day between San Francisco and heavily populated cities to its east, was closed over the Labor Day weekend so a football-field-sized, 3,300-ton section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new double-deck section. The work was part of a seismic upgrade and had to be completed 150 feet above the ground.
The new section connects the bridge with a short detour that will be used until a new east span is completed by 2013.
Crews used the opportunity to inspect the bridge and found a 2-inch-thick steel link cracked halfway through.
Other transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay area have made preparations for the bridge's closure, but officials are urging people to be flexible with their commuting hours and take extra time to get to their destination.
"If you're commuting and normally it takes you about half an hour, give yourself at least an hour," said Sgt. Trent Cross, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol's Golden Gate division.
Cross said the CHP plans to increase staffing around other bridges that are likely to see more traffic.
The bridge shut down Thursday night, and other bridges and public transportation systems were able to accommodate extra riders Friday, the first time that the bridge was closed on a working day since a major earthquake in 1989.
But since that was the beginning of a long holiday weekend, Tuesday's morning rush hour could prove more difficult.
Public transit agencies said they plan to increase capacity to handle the expected increase in riders because of the bridge's closure.
Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Jim Allison said the commuter rail line will run longer trains, but warned that finding parking at stations may be difficult.
The transit line, which typically carries about 340,000 commuters a day, could see a record day.
"Most people travel to work between 8 and 9 o'clock. If you can avoid that hour, that's a good idea," Allison said.
The Golden Gate Transportation District said the Golden Gate Ferry will add one morning vessel with a capacity of 715 passengers, to leave Larkspur for San Francisco.