We've been telling you about the Golden Gate Bridge's new movable median for ages, and now the time for its installation has come — and with that, a weekend-long closure of the span, the first such shutdown in its history.
As we discussed way back in March, the $26.5 million, 11,538-foot-long steel and concrete median will replace the current system of bendy, yellow, plastic tubes. The new system will have a "zipper truck" system to move the 800 separate 1,500 pound pieces of the barrier into the proper lane configurations, all to better prevent head-on collisions. And now we have an idea of how that's going to look, per a video released by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District just a few days ago.
According to the GGB Highway and Transportation District, after the barrier's installed we're in for a "new driving experience," which includes a lower speed limit and much narrower lanes.
The barrier will be installed on the 1.7-mile-long Bridge and on the approach portion of Highway 101, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, starting at Alexander Avenue. Using transfer machines, the barrier will be moved several times a day to create more lanes in a particular direction to accommodate variable traffic demands such as the morning and evening commutes.
A new merge will be very different for southbound vehicles. Where drivers current merge from left to right, the new merge will be from right to left. In addition, the speed limit will be dropped to 45 miles per hour from the current 55 miles per hour on the decent down the Waldo Grade. Lastly, with the installation of the barrier, the two inside lanes will lose 6-inches of width. Getting used to driving next to the barrier may take some adjustment for some drivers, and the District advises motorists to take it slow and get used to the new driving conditions.
To put all this in place, the bridge will close at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, January 10 and is expected to reopen on Monday, January 12, at 4 a.m., in the first and longest closure of the Bridge's existence.
"The bridge has been closed only for weather, namely high winds," the Marin IJ reported earlier this year, "but never for much more than three hours, bridge officials said. In 1987 it was closed to vehicle traffic for the span's 50th birthday, but was open to pedestrians."
According to GGB officials, "Golden Gate Transit bus service will be allowed to cross the Bridge," but everyone else is out of luck. So, if you need to get to the North Bay (or beyond) the weekend of 1/10, you'll need to take a bus, Golden Gate Ferry (which "will be offering expanded service that weekend, including late night service") or the Richmond and Bay Bridges. Good luck!