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Who took biggest hit from 6-day Bay Bridge closure?

By dcuff
Friday, November 6th, 2009 at 11:17 am in BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, rail, tolls.

You can’t put a price on the aggravation of being stuck in traffic. That comment from a Bay Area transportation official become the theme of my story today about the toll on the region from a six-day closure of the Bay Bridge for emergency repairs.

And much as that statement is true, we at the newspaper tried to take an admittedly crude stab at the cost of that aggravation. Our estimate: $7.5 million. This was based on an assumption that motorists who cross the Bay Bridge were delayed an hour a day in their commuting. Read how we made the estimate.

Rough as the estimate is for the value of time lost, the estimate reinforces the finding that the biggest hit from the recent six-day closure was on motorists, even though bridge operators took a hit of some $2 million in lost toll revenues.

The bridge closure had some upsides for some .  Some San Francisco residents appreciated less traffic in their neighborhoods with fewer cars entering the city.

BART had a huge surge in ridership, even though it was not enough to prevent the train system from reporting a 3.5 percent reduction in passengers for the entire month of October as compared to the same month in 2008.  BART officials hope some of those new passengers will stick with BART, but it remains unclear if the system can increase ridership after the bridge closure. We will have to check for November ridership figures to get an idea. 

All in all, though, if the public asks who suffered most from the bridge closure, the answere seems clear: the public.

Some say the six-day closure underscores the importance of finishing retrofits on Bay Area bridges to minimize risk of those bridges being knocked out of service by major earthquakes. We have about four years left before the new east span of the Bay Bridge opens, and seismic retrofits on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges are now being planned.

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