Like storm-tossed captains plotting a course around rocks and shoals, a million San Francisco Bay area workers - their normal commute routes ruined by an earthquake - are devising new strategies for getting to and from work.
"I really don't see how there cannot be gridlock on Monday," said a harried Tom Silvey, a state Franchise Tax Board worker now assigned to the state Office of Emergency Services.Monday is considered the region's transportation equivalent of D-day along 70 miles from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. It includes a plan for using Navy landing craft to ferry commuters between Oakland and San Francisco, where four freeways and high-speed connectors are closed.
For much of the work force, commute times are expected to stretch into an extra hour or more each way.
Bay Area Rapid Transit, the railroad that travels under San Francisco Bay to connect the city with East Bay communities, is running extra cars and expanding to 24-hour operation. Daily BART business is expected to double to at least 300,000 person-trips.
Morning commute tolls have been eliminated on all transbay bridges except the Golden Gate, where commuters will be excused from tolls on Friday mornings only.
By far the most serious disruption is to the traffic - 243,000 vehicles each working day - normally carried by the key 8-mile long San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It a major San Francisco lifeline for food, industrial and other goods, vehicular traffic from the east and some half-million people a day.
Tuesday's quake dumped a 50-foot section of the bridge's top deck onto the bottom deck of the 52-year-old span, and engineers estimated repairs might take as long as two months.
A driver who normally takes the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland must now either go 20 miles south and then cross the bay on the San Mateo Bridge, or take the Golden Gate Bridge and drive 18 miles north in Marin County to cross the bay on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The southern route covers an extra 60 miles, the northern detour an additional 40 miles.
In Oakland, the upper deck of a 1 1/4-mile portion of Interstate 880 collapsed onto the lower deck in a deadly vise of concrete and steel. The roadway, a conduit to and from the Bay Bridge, East Oakland, bayside cities and points south, will be out of commission for at least two years.
In Santa Cruz, 70 miles south of San Francisco, the 20,000 people who cross the Santa Cruz Mountains daily on State Highway 17 to work in Silicon Valley must seek alternate routes because landslides have closed that route.
The recommended alternates from San Jose to Santa Cruz: south on U.S. 101 to Highway 152 west, then north to Highway 1 - 40 miles extra; or, west from San Jose on Highway 9 - 20 miles extra.
In San Francisco, central-city motorists used to zipping down the hills to the Gough and Oak street connectors to U.S. 101 found the on-ramps closed because of structural damage to roadway underpinnings. They must now travel city streets for a mile or so to find southbound on-ramps.
In addition, the city's Embarcadero Freeway, which runs on the edge of the bay, is closed because of structural failure.