Commuters opt for public transit after freeway collapse


Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 30, 2007 at 10:17 p.m.

OAKLAND, Calif. - The threat of a nightmarish morning commute led many Bay Area residents to use public transportation Monday, one day after a fiery tanker crash collapsed a heavily trafficked section of freeway.

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Workers demolish a section of Highway 580 in Oakland, Calif., on Monday that was damaged after a tanker carrying gasoline exploded on Sunday. The elevated section of highway that carries motorists from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to a number of freeways was destroyed early Sunday.

The Associated Press

Westbound traffic into the city largely flowed as usual Monday morning, except for drivers slowing on interchange lanes headed to the Bay Bridge to look at the damage.

But officials warned the afternoon drive would bring bigger headaches as traffic leaving the city is diverted away from the collapsed eastbound segment.

The elevated section of highway that carries motorists from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to a number of freeways was destroyed early Sunday when the heat of a burning gasoline tanker truck weakened part of one overpass, crumpling it onto another.

Many commuters avoided peak hour congestion by getting a head start or leaving later than usual, said Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesman Jim Allison.

"I did make a little effort to get here a little earlier today because of the freeway melting, or whatever you want to call it,'' Mark Griffey, who took a BART train into the city, told KTVU-TV.

"I'm mad,'' said Crystal McSwain, who switched from a bus to a more expensive BART train to avoid the roads. "My life is upside down, and I don't know how long it's going to take.''

Authorities predicted that overall the crash would cause the worst disruption for commuters since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Bay Bridge itself.

"The most worrisome thing is the afternoon commute coming out of San Francisco toward the maze because the traffic from the Bay Bridge fans out from across three freeways,'' said Jeff Weiss, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation. "Taking away two-thirds of the capacity is really going to cause a bottleneck."

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