A new pathway to the Bay Bridge


That's if the Bay Area Toll Authority signs-off on an additional $24.7 million dollars to get it done. And a major section of that West Approach is set to open in a few weeks.

In Caltrans-speak, the Bay Bridge "West Approach" is everything between Fifth and Beale streets. It's a mile-long stretch of east and west-bound freeway and six on and off ramps.

That seismic retrofit project was slated to be finished in late 2009, but now Caltrans says it could be done by January - or even earlier, for a price: $24.7 million dollars.

"What do we get for 24.7 million dollars? What we get is early completion. This project is going to be done at least 7 months ahead of time," said John Goodwin from MTC.

On Wednesday, the Bay Area Toll Authority is expected to okay the money. It is available, part of $900 million dollars built into the original budget for just this kind of expense.

But at the same time, by finishing early, there will be cost savings on labor. So in the end, the project will come in very close to the original $429 million dollars west approach budget.

"We expect to recoup all or most of these additional costs," said Goodwin.

So how could Caltrans' timeline be off by seven months? Why not design the project on that schedule to begin with?

Caltrans says the West Approach is a one-of-a kind project.

"There were plans for how to deliver this but as we went through them we reserved the right to improve the project. And our construction engineers worked very hard with Tutor Saliba and the city and county of San Francisco to make a better project," said Bart Ney from Caltrans.

In a few weeks, drivers heading east will begin using the new, permanent approach to the bridge.

About a year ago traffic was diverted onto a detour underneath the westbound lanes, so the old road could be demolished and replaced. Now it will be a straight shot in sunlight onto the bridge.

"In mid-April motorists won't have to do much thinking it will be really easy," said

After that, the Harrison off-ramp and the Sterling on-ramp will be next in line for completion.

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