The Bay Bridge will close tonight for five days, a disruption that could cause lengthy traffic delays for North Bay drivers heading toward San Francisco over the Labor Day weekend.
Those who can avoid the City and stay north of the Marin County line, however, should be rewarded with relatively open roads.
"Drivers in Sonoma County can be grateful that they are up there," said Randy Rentschler, public affairs director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area's transit authority.
The Bay Bridge will close at 8 p.m. tonight, allowing crews to add the finishing touches on the new $6.4 billion eastern span. Work involves paving, striping and removing barriers, bridge officials said. The new side-by-side section will open Tuesday morning at 5 a.m.
Heavy traffic is expected through Marin County as many drivers will use the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge to travel between the East Bay and San Francisco.
"People should be patient," said Kary Witt, manager of the Golden Gate Bridge. "Get an early start."
The Golden Gate Bridge will open the usual four lanes in commute directions on Thursday and Friday and three lanes in each direction over the weekend, Witt said.
Golden Gate Ferry service between Larkspur and San Francisco will add an extra late night trip on Friday and four extra trips on Saturday and Sunday. Some Bay Area Rapid Transit trains will operate on 24-hour schedules from Thursday through Monday.
Sonoma County Airport Express will operate a normal schedule of buses to San Francisco and Oakland airports but could add buses if needed, general operations manager Tony Geraldi said.
"I'm an optimist," he said. "During past Bay Bridge closures, we have had virtually no effect."