Locals say Embarcadero Bridge closure could create traffic nightmare

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Many drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists were stunned Monday to learn of an upcoming Bay Area bridge closure - a two year long construction project they say threatens to cause traffic nightmares in the East Bay.

Some businesses and commuters say they felt blindsided when they learned the Embarcadero Bridge on Oakland's well-traveled Embarcadero between Oak and Fifth streets, will close for two years beginning next month.

"That'd be a big disappointment to a lot of people," said John Johnson of Oakland, "and I haven't heard anything about it."

Many drivers use the Embarcadero to bypass 880. "To get to downtown areas real quick when traffic builds up," Johnson added.

The $23 million retrofit is complicated by pipelines and rails. The closure would effectively end the Bay Trail, "Cutting off the best part of the run which is Jack London Square, so there's a whole bunch of us that prefer it stay open," said Steve Chamberlin of Alameda. 

The city says it has no choice, that the bridge is seismically unsafe. It's trying to coordinate construction with other projects to minimize disruption.

"It's not that we do one project with a long delay and another with a delay - we're doing them both at the same time," said Kristine Shaff of the City of Oakland Public Works Department.

Shaff told KTVU Fox 2 there's no way to make a temporary parallel bridge and she acknowledged disruption to businesses, especially at the Fifth Street - Marina area.

"I'm all for public safety," said Emil George of Oakland, "but as far as environmental impact on the rest of us that have to use those thoroughfares, it's going to make a gridlock. Just wait."

The city set up a website to help people navigate streets around the bridge closure. Ninety-seven percent of the project is paid by federal funds.