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Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge Closure Temporarily Tames Some of SF’s Worst Traffic Sewers

6:17 PM PDT on September 4, 2009

IMG_5042.jpgViaducts leading to the Bay Bridge were empty today but for construction vehicles. Photo: Michael Rhodes

The streets of SoMa were eerily silent today, in the words of one resident, who took a break from working at home to enjoy walking his dog down a pleasantly calm Harrison Street. Gone was the persistent hum of Bay Bridge traffic, both overhead and on feeder streets. The first Bay Bridge workday closure since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake seemed to bring an unusual tranquility to SoMa's worst traffic sewers.

Down the block, at Gabby Café, owner Sam Adam said the reduced traffic was a welcome relief. If it were always this way, Adam said, it would be fine with him. "If it stays that way, it's much better anyway," since cars are noisy and dusty.

He wasn't concerned about lost customers, since his store mostly serves a neighborhood clientele. "From traffic, we don't get any business."

Next door, at Shine Cleaners, Inna Daniliuk echoed that sentiment. "It's Friday as usual," said Daniliuk, who hasn't heard any complaints from customers about the bridge closure. "Almost all the customers live in this area."

quietstreet.jpgHarrison Street in SoMa was nearly empty for much of Friday. Photo: Michael Rhodes

Across the street, Conor O'Rourke stopped by the post office, which he said was the closest to his workplace. Since he doesn't own a car, and commutes from the Mission by bike everyday, O'Rourke said the light traffic was good for bicycling. "It has been nice that the bike lanes are easier to drive in when the cars aren't around."

"There definitely isn't as much traffic right now as there usually is," he added.

Over at Market and Spear Street, it was business as usual at the street-side stands that offer a variety of knickknacks and art for sale to tourists. Ravit Maman, who operates a jewelry stand on the sidewalk there, said she was experiencing her usual Friday bump in business.

Tourism didn't seem to be suffering from the bridge closure, but Maman said she did experience a busier BART ride than usual, even though she wasn't on it until 11:30 a.m. According to BART, the ridership increase today was modest: about 10,000 extra riders by 8 a.m., compared to last Friday's numbers.

Businesses serving the Financial District seemed to be holding their own as well. At the Tadich Grill on California Street, the lunch crowd was no smaller than usual. "We were good," said Tracy Prather, a Tadich Grill employee. "A lot busier than what we all thought."

Asked how the restaurant was able to remain unaffected by the bridge closure, Prather responded readily: "Because we're the Tadich Grill. Everybody comes here."

While business tends to be "feast and famine" across the street at Let Us! Copy, Billy McMorrow said today wasn't slower than a usual Friday, especially considering the holiday. It's been a quiet day, McMorrow said, but "not necessarily because of the bridge."

Given that 280,000 vehicles cross the Bay Bridge daily, business owners and employees seemed surprisingly unfazed by the closure. Somehow, even without the bridge, San Francisco seemed to carry on, a little less noisy than usual, but not less busy.

Did the Bay Bridge closure affect your commute today? Will you be taking advantage of the extra-quiet streets this Labor Day Weekend? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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