OAKLAND (KCBS/BCN) – The five-day closure of the Bay Bridge was set to start on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m., but the California Highway Patrol is warning drivers who want to cross the span not to wait until the last minute.

CHP Officer Daniel Hill said one after another, feeder freeways to the Bay Bridge on both sides of the span will be closed.

“The closures are probably going to be effective between 7:15 and 7:45ish,” he said.

Hill said the staggered closures are designed to avoid a last minute rush to the bridge, before the 8:00 p.m. deadline for it to be completely cleared of traffic, so Caltrans crews can immediately start the work necessary to open the new eastern span.

“Westbound 80 at Powell. All traffic is going to be diverted onto either eastbound 580 or southbound 880,” Hill said. “If you’re going westbound 580 from the maze, you’ll be diverted onto eastbound 80. If you’re going northbound 880 from Oakland, you’re going to be diverted onto eastbound 80.”

Hill advises drivers to be plan to be across the bridge by 7:00 p.m. to avoid the closures.

Once the bridge is cleared, crews will begin final work on the new span, which is scheduled to open by 5 a.m. Tuesday, or possibly earlier if the work is done ahead of schedule, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said.

During the closure, BART is running longer trains on Thursday and Friday and providing 24-hour service at more than a dozen stations.

BART officials say they expect a surge in ridership, noting that during previous Bay Bridge closures, trains have carried 30 percent more passengers than usual.

The CHP expects traffic to increase on other Bay Area bridges and advised drivers to expect delays.

“Allowing yourself additional time to get to your destination would be a wise thing to do,” Morgan said.

Golden Gate Ferry service is being boosted this Labor Day weekend from Larkspur and Sausalito into San Francisco, and San Francisco Bay Ferry is adding ferries between the East Bay and San Francisco.

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses that normally take riders across the bridge will instead go to the MacArthur, Oakland Coliseum, West Oakland and North Berkeley BART stations, agency officials said.

A low-key ceremony celebrating the opening of the new eastern span is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.

A large-scale, public celebration had initially been in the works, but the plan was scrapped after problems with anchor bolts on the new span left the bridge’s opening date in limbo.

A temporary fix was since devised to cover the broken rods with an exterior saddle and cable system encased in concrete.

The old eastern span, a cantilever bridge that opened in 1936, has been slated for replacement since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which caused a section of the span’s upper deck to collapse.

Social media users are expressing nostalgia about the impending bridge closure, with many posting pictures and video on Twitter of their final drives across the old span.

One Twitter user wrote, “Last trip over the ol’ bay bridge miss u bb.”

Bay Area residents and visitors were advised to call 511 or visit alert.511.org to learn about all of the options for getting around during the closure.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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