Official Blames Painfully Slow Bay Bridge Commute On Gawkers, Says It’ll Improve Soon

Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said today that traffic on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge continues to be slow but he expects it to be faster in the long run.

In response to a question by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener at today’s Bay Area Toll Authority meeting, Heminger said he thinks the congestion on the new eastern span, which opened on the night of Sept. 2, is only a temporary phenomenon.

Noting that the new span has parallel side-by-side decks that have a more open feeling and provide eastbound drivers with great views of the East Bay hills and the Port of Oakland, Heminger said he thinks people are driving slower because “they gawk.”

He said, “Now it’s a little too good looking and it’s slowing traffic down.”

But Heminger said he believes that “over the long run there will be a dramatic improvement in traffic” on the Bay Bridge because the new span has two shoulders in each direction, which means that stalls and accidents won’t clog the bridge as often as they did in the past.

In response to a question by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan on another topic, Heminger said the current schedule calls for it to take four years to demolish the old eastern span but he thinks that’s “way too long” and he’d like to accelerate the process.

When Quan expressed concern that the long demolition process will delay plans to have the bicycle and pedestrian path on the new eastern span extend all the way to Treasure Island, Heminger said the section of the old span near the island will be demolished in less than two years and the path should be able to connect to the island by March 2015.

The path, which opened on Sept. 3, currently stops about two-thirds of the way across the new eastern span.

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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