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Originally published September 3, 2013 at 8:09 PM | Page modified September 4, 2013 at 6:58 AM

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First cars cross Bay Bridge’s new span

The Associated Press and Contra Costa Times

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SAN FRANCISCO — New bridge, same traffic.

The new gleaming white $6.4 billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge handled its first morning commute Tuesday with few problems other than the traffic snarls that were common around the old span.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Sam Morgan said traffic heading into San Francisco on the bridge around noon was a little heavier than usual, possibly because of excitement about the new bridge.

“Some are making it a recreational event,” Morgan said.

The new, self-anchored suspension span with its single looming white tower opened Monday night, hours after a low-key inaugural chain-cutting ceremony and after years of delays and cost overruns.

It replaces a structure that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which struck as millions tuned in to watch Game 3 of the “Bay Bridge World Series” between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. The replacement span is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period.

There were plenty of firsts for the $6.4 billion span Tuesday. The first ticket: The CHP fined a motorcyclist going 70 mph, 20 mph over the posted speed limit. The first arrest: A woman going east was pulled over near the toll plaza and booked on suspicion of DUI at 2:15 a.m., just four hours after traffic began flowing on the bridge. And the first crash: A three-car collision at 11 a.m. sent one person to the hospital with minor injuries.

Officer Daniel Hill told San Jose-based KNTV-TV that some drivers were warned or cited for taking photos and cellphone video while driving.

At least one man couldn’t quite let go of the old bridge. He navigated through a restricted access area meant for construction crews on Yerba Buena Island and got onto the structure, which will sit next to the new span until workers demolish it.

Officers also pulled over some smartphone-wielding drivers and wrote fines as they ramped up distracted-driving enforcement through next week, though the CHP did not immediately say how many tickets were issued.

“While everybody is excited about the new bridge, please remember it is still a roadway designed to get you from Point A to Point B,” Morgan warned.

“It was awesome,” said Twitter employee Dan Sullivan, a 36-year-old Montclair resident who drove across the new span for the first time Tuesday. “It was a very good experience actually — a very open feeling. You hardly notice the old bridge at all.”

Meanwhile, the new bridge’s bike and pedestrian path opened Tuesday, although it does not yet run the full length of the new span.

The trail is only for recreation now — it won’t extend all 2.2 miles to Yerba Buena Island until after a section of the old bridge, which is now in the way, gets demolished.

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