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Officials gear up for MacArthur Maze
collapse consequences

By Tamara Barak

April 30, 2007

San Francisco officials are gearing up for the first weekday evening commute since an early Sunday tanker fire caused the collapse of a major section of freeway at Oakland's MacArthur Maze.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said that while this morning's commute on San Francisco buses and railways was lighter than usual, the number of people using public transit to avoid area freeways is expected to rise.

"Not by any stretch of the imagination is there anyone who thinks we're out of the woods," Newsom said at a news conference at San Francisco City Hall this morning.

San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency Director Nate Ford said Muni has prepared for tonight's commute, which is complicated by a Giants game.

The city will increase its number of parking control officers and supporting police officers, Ford said. Eight additional Muni trains will shuttle people to and from AT&T Park, while 21 parking officers will be assigned for pre-and-post-game traffic management.

As commuters rely increasingly on public transit, additional station agents will help passengers transferring from Bay Area Rapid Transit to Muni, Ford said. There will also be extra Muni buses to deal with potential overcrowding at the Ferry Building and the Transbay Terminal.

Traffic officers will be stationed at all seven offramps of the Bay Bridge during the evening commute. Muni officials are monitoring traffic patterns and will base their service on the daily results, Ford said.

BART will add extra trains during both morning and evening commutes this week and lengthen regularly scheduled trains to expand capacity by more than 50 percent, according to U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee's office.

In addition, Golden Gate Bridge officials may open four northbound lanes during the evening commute if traffic is heavy and AC Transit will add buses for the evening commute from San Francisco to the East Bay. Vallejo Baylink Ferry will add extra service and parking for commuters, according to Lee's office.

San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong pleaded for patience.

"It will be congested," she warned. "Road rage, or getting in a fight, isn't going to move traffic. It's going to stop traffic. We're all in this together. We're all trying to get somewhere."

Monique Moyer of the Port of San Francisco said ferry service from Oakland and Alameda will be quadrupled this week. However, with seven cruise ships expected to dock and high tourist traffic to Alcatraz, "It will be a challenging week for the Embarcadero."

Newsom stressed that local agencies were well-coordinated in their response to the overpass collapse thanks to regional disaster training.

"This is not a dress rehearsal. This is serious," he said.

However, it is also an opportunity to sharpen the city's response to a catastrophic incident like an earthquake.

"We're able to see where the protocols worked and where they didn't," he said.

The mayor this morning signed a declaration for a local state of emergency that will allow the city reimbursement for the free transit offered today. Free Muni service alone cost the city an estimated $500,000, Newsom said.

Free transit has not yet been offered for Tuesday's commute.

Newsom acknowledged that San Francisco's economy is dependent on its accessibility.

"The city is open for business. People are getting in and around the region," he said.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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