Yearlong detour on the Bay Bridge 

Drivers making their way to the East Bay from San Francisco will be directed onto a temporary bypass on the Bay Bridge — just to the left of the old one — startingat the end of this month.

The traffic switch, which will continue for one year, takes place on the westbound Interstate 80 approach to the Bay Bridge, just past the Fourth Street offramp.

Caltrans is expecting to reroute traffic onto the new temporary roadway, which has been built within the last six months, during the evening hours on March 28 or 29, weather permitting. The realignment is not expected to impact traffic, according to Caltrans officials, because the temporary roadway is parallel to the existing structure.

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"We don’t envision a traffic impact because there’s not a decision change," said Dennis Turchon, a Caltrans area construction manager, adding that he did expect some slightly slower traffic during the first few days as people rubberneck to see why they’re on a new structure.

There will be no full closures of the western approach for this replacement project, according to Bay Ney, a Caltrans spokesperson.

The replacement of the west approach is a $429 million project, and is part of an overall effort to bring the Bay Bridge up to seismic safety standards, estimated to cost $6.3 billion, according to Caltrans.

The western approach is a mile-long stretch of I-80 that runs from the Fifth Street ramps to the western span of the bridge, which connects San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island. The work to make the 70-year-old structure earthquake-safe has been done in pieces, much ofit during 2006, using a demolish-and-replace approach.

"A lot of our most technically sophisticated and challenging work was done last year," Ney said.

After traffic is diverted at the end of this month, the current structure moving traffic eastbound will be torn down, a process that is expected to take about a month. The permanent structure will be built in its place by "early 2008," Turchon said.

The work on the span of the Bay Bridge connecting Oakland to Yerba Buena Island is not slated for completion until 2013.

The Bay Bridge carries approximately 280,000 vehicles a day. The decision to replace and retrofit it was made after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the project has been delayed and the costs have increased due to a number of reasons, including political battles over the design and funding.

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