Bay Bridge Closure Inspires Curiosity Among Livable Streets Advocates

pic29179.jpgThe original and a new temporary structure will be swapped this weekend. Photo courtesy of Caltrans.
The Bay Bridge closure this weekend will be the third in four years, and drivers are starting to figure out alternatives, including taking BART, carpooling on other bridges, and simply avoiding unnecessary trips. But this year's closure is different from those in 2006 and 2007: for the first time, the Bay Bridge will have a planned closure on a regular workday. No one knows what that will entail for certain, but BART will likely be packed, and the streets around Rincon Hill and much of South of Market may be strangely calm.

While the bridge is closed, from 8 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Tuesday, crews will cut and roll away a 300-foot-long section of the east span of the bridge. In its place, a new section will be moved in, which will connect to a temporary half-mile-long detour. The detour will allow crews to complete work on a permanent replacement structure, which will eventually be used to connect the new east span of the bridge to the Yerba Buena Island tunnel. The Bay Bridge website has an excellent video explaining this weekend's construction work.

BART will be running trains hourly overnight on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to 14 stations. There will be no overnight service in the early hours of Tuesday, even though the bridge will still be closed. There will also be additional ferry service across the Bay during the bridge closure, and AC Transit will reroute its transbay routes to meet the BART stations at Coliseum/Oakland Airport, MacArthur, North Berkeley, and West Oakland after making the regular East Bay stops. Muni's route 108 to Treasure Island will operate regular service. The Caltrans Bicycle Shuttle, which normally runs only on weekdays, will add weekend service during the closure, via the Golden Gate and Richmond San Rafael Bridges. A complete list of transit options during the closure is available at 511.org.

For some livable streets advocates, the bridge closure is inspiring a certain curiosity about the impact it will have on the burgeoning Rincon Hill neighborhood in South of Market, which has grown significantly over the last decade, but which is also stifled by streets designed for Bay Bridge traffic. "It's going to be interesting to see what the Bay Bridge closure means for South of Market streets - will the Bay Bridge traffic be replaced by Peninsula traffic or Marin traffic," Cheryl Brinkman of Livable City wondered. "And why are the streets South of Market designed to handle peak rush hour traffic with little or no consideration given to the other 22 hours of the day?"

"The bridge is a permanent fixture; the design of our streets is not," said Brinkman. "We've got the space; we just need to re-allocate how we use it."

On Friday, Brinkman is organizing an alternative Critical Mass of sorts, with a ride through South of Market that will take advantage of the calmer streets while Bay Bridge traffic is absent. The ride will start at the southwest corner of Spear Street, at Folsom. Riders will meet at 5:30 p.m. and depart about a half hour later. In the spirit of calmer, more livable streets, the event will be a mellow ride to the AT&T Park area. "Aggro types need not apply," said Brinkman.

There has been no shortage of proposals from livable streets advocates to improve the Bay Bridge's impact on pedestrians and bicyclists, including adding bike access to the bridge and calming the streets around the bridge's western touchdown. If rerouted traffic doesn't spoil it, Friday could offer a glimpse of what a calmer SoMa would look like.

Have your own plans for taking advantage of a calmer SoMa over the next four days, or other ideas about what impact the Bay Bridge closure will have? Let us know in the comments section below.