Bay Bridge Closure Threatens Nightmare Commute

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A replacement section slides into place connecting the new detour route.

A replacement section slides into place connecting the new detour route during the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge seismic retrofit Saturday. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP

One of the busiest bridges in the nation will be out of commission at the start of Tuesday's morning commute. In California, workers are scrambling to repair a crack discovered over the weekend on the bay bridge that connects Oakland and San Francisco. The bridge was closed over the holiday weekend so that a section of the eastern span could be replaced.

A spokesman for California's Department of Transportation says crews are facing unprecedented logistical challenges getting parts in place for an unexpected repair.

Now, thousands of people in the Bay Area are forced to figure out how they'll get to work after Labor Day — a move that could result in gridlock on other bridges and roads in the area.

Crews working to repair the span had hoped to be finished by 5 a.m. Tuesday; that deadline may now be pushed back by 24 hours.

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 section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new double-deck section as part of a seismic upgrade. Crews used the opportunity to inspect the bridge and found a 2-inch-thick steel link cracked halfway through.

Cross said the CHP plans to increase staffing around other bridges that are likely to see more traffic.

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 Allison warned that finding parking at stations may be difficult.

The transit line typically carries about 340,000 commuters a day. It set a record with a little more than 405,000 riders on Sept. 8, 2008, Allison said.

Although the rail line can carry more people, Allison said commuters have to be spread out over the day.

"Most people travel to work between 8 and 9 o'clock. If you can avoid that hour, that's a good idea," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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