Friday, September 23, 2005

Vallejo's old span of the Carquinez Bridge will return to service

Article Last Updated: Thursday, Sep 22, 2005 - 10:40:48 pm PDT

The Carquinez Bridge will return to service while the state renovates its replacement, the Al Zampa suspension bridge. (Mike McCoy/Daily Republic file (2004))

By Barry Eberling

VALLEJO - Drivers heading eastbound over the Carquinez Bridge starting Sunday will notice a big change - a change that might initially cause some rush-hour delays.

Motorists entering Solano County will be using the historic, 1927 bridge for the first time in two years. This bridge has been closed ever since it got replaced by the Al Zampa suspension bridge.

The Zampa bridge handles westbound traffic only. A 1958 bridge handles eastbound traffic. But the state wants to renovate the bridge deck on the 1958 bridge and will close it to traffic for two months.

So the historic bridge is needed once again. Sunday should be the day for the switch - if all goes as planned. Caltrans planned to make the switch a few weeks ago, but ran into some minor glitches that caused a delay.

Commuters using the historic bridge Monday afternoon should be prepared for possible extra congestion, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said. That should be the first time the bridge switch is tested by heavy traffic.

"We're doing what we can to make it as seamless as possible," Haus said.

But the new arrangements entails having motorists making a slight turn to the right at the end of the Carquinez Bridge, which will be necessary for them to reach the toll plaza. The state anticipates motorists will take a few days to get used to things.

"Any time you make any kind of transition, you're going to have a few awkward delays," Haus said.

Such a rightward jog wasn't needed when the 1927 bridge carried traffic in the past. The bridge used to carry westbound traffic - the direction now handled by the new, Al Zampa suspension bridge.

Haus advised listening to traffic reports on Monday to learn if any delays materialize. If so, drivers might want to take Highway 24 or Highway 4 to Interstate 680. Then they could cross the Carquinez Strait on the Benicia Bridge, he said.

After two months, the 1927 cantilever bridge will no longer be needed. Caltrans plans to take it apart piece by piece. The state replaced the aging bridge because it decided it was too hard to maintain.

Two former grocers formed the private company that built the 1927 toll bridge. Construction cost $7.8 million - about $78 million in today's dollars. Before the bridge opened, drivers had to cross the Carquinez Strait by ferry.

Now the old bridge is getting one last hurrah before it is relegated to the scrap heap.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or

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