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Bicyclists, pedestrians get their own lanes on new span

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 8:54 p.m.
In this Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 photo taken in a long exposure and provided by the Bay Area Toll Authority, police vehicles open the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to traffic, in San Francisco. At the modest inaugural ceremony, the new, self-anchored suspension bridge with its single white tower was praised as a dramatic safety upgrade over its predecessor and a beautiful example of public art. (AP Photo/Bay Area Toll Authority, Noah Berger) MAGS OUT, NO SALES

OAKLAND, Calif. — The commute on Tuesday across the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge gave drivers and bicyclists alike their first close-up encounter with the span's signature 525-foot tower and new vistas of the bay.

“It was awesome,” said Twitter employee Dan Sullivan, 36, who drove across the span for the first time on Tuesday. “It was a very good experience, actually. A very open feeling. You hardly notice the old bridge at all.”

The span opened ahead of schedule on Monday, marking the end of 11 years of construction.

The morning commute traffic was not unusual, and there were no reports of accidents on the bridge, California Highway Patrol Officer Sam Morgan said.

A pedestrian and bicycle path on the span opened to the public at noon.

The pathway has two lanes for bicyclists and one lane for pedestrians. For now, views for those headed west are obstructed by the old span of the bridge on the left and the new span on the right. Demolition of the old span of the bridge is under way.

A bicycle trip to the end of the path took 53-year-old Cyndi Baird of Albany about 30 minutes.

“The ride was nice 'cause you don't have to deal with traffic,” Baird said. “I think it's amazing and truly magnificent structure, and I was glad to get up here today and make history.”

The early opening Monday night drew lines of cars along West Grand Avenue in Oakland, starting at 5:30 p.m. Some waited hours to be among the first to cross the new span.

The 2.2-mile replacement span, which cost $6.4 billion, is the most expensive public works project in state history.

“The s-curve is gone, so basically you come off the span and you come straight into the tunnel,” said Sullivan, of his first crossing. “It kind of feels like a new tunnel, but it's not. They kind of dressed it up a little bit.”

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