Officials Prepare for Big Traffic Crunch on Monday
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A ferry boat armada is being prepared as transit officials brace for a monumental traffic jam on San Francisco Bay area freeways Monday when most workers return to their jobs in the quake-ravaged region.
Some roads already have been gripped by gridlock despite fewer commuters in the aftermath of Tuesday’s quake, which shut down the vital bridge linking San Francisco to Oakland and the rest of the East Bay.
Ferry boats may relieve some of the pressure on the highways.
″We’ve got three days to get ready for Monday with as much of an armada as possible,″ state Sen. Quentin Kopp said at an emergency meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Thursday.
″I don’t see much alternative to water over the next couple of weeks,″ while the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is repaired, Kopp said. A 50-foot section of the bridge collapsed during the quake and could take up to two months to repair.
Kopp said some 45 vessels, ranging from elegant dining cruise boats to Navy landing craft, could be pressed into service to carry up to 60,000 commuters across the waters. Kopp said 20 Navy boats were made available by the 12th Naval District.
But that still leaves at least 50,000 additional commuters who normally take the bridge.
″It’ll get bad Monday,″ said George Gray, deputy district director for public transportation at the California Department of Transportation.
He encouraged people to stay home and work through personal computers or to adopt flexible work hours.
On Thursday, about 60 percent of the usual number of commuters struggled to reach work by train, boat or car. Many found themselves in traffic jams. Some arrived at buildings still in the dark or with only partial power. Others turned back after facing up to four-hour delays on the overburdened highways.
″People are just trying to get back to reality, to make life like it was before,″ said Steve Tomberlin of Traffic Central, a private traffic information service.
Some commuters from the East Bay took a circuitous route south to the San Francisco Peninsula and then north to San Francisco that added hours to the average hour-long drive they would have taken across the Bay Bridge.
Those who took the northern route, across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge to Marin County and then across the Golden Gate Bridge, faced delays of up to 90 minutes.
Bay Area Rapid Transit has restored full operations for the morning commute, but it appeared that few car-lovers were switching to the subterranean train line.
System analyst Joan Nomara said the passenger load - typically about 50,000 people each way on weekdays - was around 70 percent on Thursday.
BART also announced round-the-clock service would begin Monday. The system is usually shut between midnight and 6 a.m.