SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Some cars will take a road test of the new eastern half of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, hours before the opening of the full span to the public after a five-day closure of the region's busiest bridge.
About 20 cars, ranging from vintage models to modern electric vehicles, are expected to take a spin across the span following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.
Hundreds of workers have been working around the clock since the entire bridge was shut down on Wednesday night so the finishing touches could be put on the $6.4 billion project, Caltrans spokesman Andrew Gordon said.
He said the span should be ready to welcome traffic by 5 a.m. Tuesday, though officials may announce an earlier opening time after the invitation-only inauguration ceremony. Government officials, labor leaders, survivors of the 1989 earthquake that collapsed two 50-foot sections of the old structure and people who were alive when the Bay Bridge first opened in 1936 were expected to attend.
"People are tired, but everyone's very excited," Gordon said. "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 new section of bridge, designed to make the span safe during future earthquakes, has been under construction for almost a decade and follows years of political bickering, engineering challenges and cost overruns.
Less steep than the old eastern span, the self-anchored suspension bridge with a looming, single white tower was designed to endure 150 years and withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period.
The final steps have involved laying down new pavement, painting traffic lines, demolishing a 1,000-foot stretch of the old bridge and erecting traffic barriers that will direct drivers onto the new section instead of its predecessor, Gordon said.
The major part of the final work to prepare the span to open was complete on Monday, but crews were still striping, putting up signs and putting down roadway markers, Gordon said. Some barrier railing also needed to be put up.
Crews also are completing a temporary version of a 2-mile path that will allow bicycles and pedestrians to share the bridge with cars for the first time starting midday Tuesday. As the existing span is taken down over the next six months, a permanent path will be installed that will carry cyclists and people on foot all the way from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.