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No North Bay traffic troubles despite Bay Bridge closure


It appears all the publicity and planning that preceded the current closure of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge paid off, at least as far as the first week-day commute was concerned.

"Outstanding," was the way Marin County CHP Officer Andrew Barclay put it. "... We're not noticing any problems — anything out of the ordinary."

The Bay Bridge was shut down Wednesday night and is expected to remain closed until 5 a.m. Tuesday so crews can finish work on transitions to the newly constructed eastbound bridge span.

While the closure may have put extra traffic on the Richmond-San Rafael and Golden Gate bridges, as well as Highway 37 from San Rafael to Vallejo, there were no reports Thursday morning of the kinds of logjams feared in such situations.

The roads were merely packed, as usual.

"This morning's commute was as good as any other day," said Golden Gate Bridge Manager Kary Witt, a Windsor resident who, thus, is affected by shifting traffic patterns both personally and professionally.

"Here at the (Golden Gate) Bridge, things have gone phenomenally well," he said."This is really kind of a non-event for us, which is really good news because we just didn't know what to expect."

He cautioned, however, that it appears morning commuters may have spread their travel out over several - some leaving earlier than usual, others leaving later, contributing to relatively smooth traffic conditions.

Anyone living in the Bay Area would have been hard-pressed to escape the onslaught of news coverage and publicity over local media outlets, social media, freeway signs and the like, so some folks may have decided to work from home, take the day off or use alternate transportation, he and Barclay said.

But while the morning commute was somewhat staggered, the tendency is for everyone to "want to leave at the same time to go home at night," Witt said.

He and Barclay also cautioned motorists about potential backups in southern Marin County because of road configurations.

There are usual trouble spots along transition points between the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge westbound and southbound Highway 101 in the morning, and northbound 101 to eastbound 580 in the evenings that are likely to be exacerbated by extra cars on those routes.

There are no freeway-to-freeway ramps, and traffic gets shunted onto surface streets through several signalized intersections that slow traffic every weekday morning and evening, let alone when a major route through the Bay Area is taken out of service.

"We are going to see an increase in traffic, there's no doubt about that," Barclay said. "But hopefully it's handled well enough that we won't see too much of an inconvenience."

Nearly 2,600 people took ferries into San Francisco from Larkspur on Thursday morning - 413 more than last Thursday morning, Witt said. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District sold out three boats and added a last-minute 8:40 a.m. run to accommodate folks left behind by the 8:20 ferry, he said.

An extra ferry was added to the afternoon schedule, as well, and was set to leave San Francisco for Larkspur at 4:10 p.m., Witt said.

Anticipating heavy afternoon traffic on the bridge, district officials also planned to shift the lane configuration to favor northbound travel earlier in the day than usual.

"That will cause some inconvenience for southbound people, but I think there's going to be enough people getting out of the city to justify that," Witt said.

He added that he expected traffic crunches to hit Friday afternoon and evening, during the usual pre-holiday rush to get out of town, and again on Monday afternoon, when holiday travelers return.

"So far, it's been great," Witt said. "I've been pleasantly surprised. I hope it stays that way."