San Mateo-Hayward Bay Bridge

On Saturday, workers quietly completed the final steps of a massive bridge-widening project, striped the new lanes, moved the barriers, and they left. Outside of local Bay Area TV stations and hundreds of thousands of stressed commuters, few will notice, and fewer will appreciate.

We didn’t notice anyone thanking the hundreds of men and women who did the actual work, finishing the 3-year lane widening project a month ahead of schedule. We appreciate a job well done, and we’d like to offer our thanks and congratulations.

This project should have been authorized twenty years ago. The eastern four miles of bridge causeway was built for two lanes in each direction. It connected to a highrise span of three lanes in each direction. The resulting eastbound commute bottleneck has been unendurable for as long as we can remember, including a one-year trans-bay stint in the mid-1980’s. Why was the bridge built this way? We’ve never even seen a suggested explanation. The reasoning is unfathomable.

Our household started this commute with the Castro Valley move in the year 2000. Piledrivers were still working within shouting distance of shore. We measured daily progress from our car by counting streetlamp posts.

In September 2001 the terrorist disasters came to the eastern seaboard, and bridge workers put up the American flags on the construction trailers, barricades and giant cranes. One year they put up a Christmas tree on top of a crane. Then came the endless parade of cement mixer trucks, road finishing machinery, electrical workers and painters. The physical connection to the span was made. No more light posts to count. The piledrivers, cranes, and temporary wood piers of massive planks and beams all disappeared.

Around New Year’s Day of this year, they opened up three causeway lanes westbound. The relief of traffic congestion was immediate and dramatic. Eastbound lanes were promised “in February”. They finished Saturday. And then they were gone.

Today, Monday morning, a visiting commuter might never have known it hadn’t always been three lanes in each direction.

“Who was that masked stranger?” As in the TV days of yore, sometimes it’s too late to thank your benefactors. But, thanks nonetheless.

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