The new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was expected to open earlier than expected after a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday afternoon.
SAN FRANCISCO — The new, $6.4 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is being praised as a dramatic safety upgrade over its predecessor and a beautiful example of public art at its inaugural ceremony.
There was no public celebration with tens of thousands of pedestrians and fireworks at Monday’s inaugural. Instead, after years of delays and cost overruns, the opening of one of the state’s most expensive public works projects was marked with a relatively low-key event.
State, federal and local elected officials were among those who spoke. The event also included a poem about the bridge by California’s poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera.
“People are tired, but everyone’s very excited,” bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon said Monday morning. “It’s kind of this last lap so to speak, the last leg of this marathon. We are all looking forward to getting to the finish line.”
The invitation-only inauguration was scheduled for 3 p.m., with a formal chain cutting ceremony 90 minutes later.
Government officials, labor leaders, survivors of the 1989 earthquake that collapsed two 50-foot sections of the old eastern span and people who were alive when the Bay Bridge first opened in 1936 were expected to attend. Gov. Jerry Brown, who was closely involved in planning the bridge when he was mayor of Oakland, did not attend.
The new span and the rest of the bridge will not immediately be opened to traffic. It closed on Wednesday night so crews could do final work, and they were still striping, putting up signs and putting down roadway markers Monday, Gordon said. Some barrier railing also needed to be put up.
The bridge is scheduled to open to traffic by 5 a.m. Tuesday, though it could open earlier. Gordon said a decision will be made Monday afternoon and could be announced at the ceremony.
The new section of bridge, designed to make the span safe during earthquakes, has been under construction for almost a decade and follows years of political bickering, engineering challenges and cost overruns. It replaced a structure that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
In March, more than two dozen rods used to anchor the roadway to important earthquake safety structures cracked after they were tightened. The discovery threatened to delay the bridge’s opening by months.
The bridge will open with a temporary fix for the broken rods while the permanent repair, expected to be completed in December, is being installed.
Transportation officials approved the temporary fix last month and voted to open the bridge as originally planned around the Labor Day weekend.
But Gordon said on Monday that there was not enough time for a public celebration.
Plans for such a celebration originally called for a bridge walk with more than 100,000 people, fireworks, a half marathon and a concert.