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Bay Bridge's New Eastern Span Finally Open To Traffic

BAY BRIDGE (CBS13/AP) — The multi-billion dollar eastern span of the Bay Bridge is finally open.

It's taken 24 long years and it's hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, but it's finally here. A ceremonial chain-cutting by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom signified the rebirth of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

"Very happy to be part of it, especially after 24 years," said Quentin Kopp.

After more than two decades and $6 billion, hundreds of people came out Monday to celebrate the reopening.

"How cool is this to be part of this?" said Seth Doudhety. "It's really cool."

Politicians and VIPs were first to cross through the deserted toll plaza and onto the bridge in classic cars, followed by a line of California's own Teslas.

After the pomp and circumstance, countless California Highway Patrol officers took over to get traffic moving again on a bridge that's been closed since last Wednesday.

"We'll establish a rolling road block in which the officers will drive in the lanes in front of the first public cars to cross the bridge keep them at a nice slow speed," said CHP officer Daniel Hill

That's to make sure people don't race across the bridge to be first, or just for fun.

"Maybe innocently don't have any way to gauge their speed, or not so innocently—'I have an open road. Might as well take advantage of it.'"

And Hill says drivers wanting to stop on the new bridge to take a picture—well, don't even think about it.

"You will be cited. That citation carries a hefty fine, and a violation that carries a point on your DMV record."

The bridge's pedestrian and bike sections were set to open later Tuesday.

The new span replaces a structure that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period.

"Despite the journey's length, it has been completed before the arrival of our next big earthquake," said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "And thank goodness for that."

At a modest inaugural ceremony, the new, self-anchored suspension bridge with its looming, single white tower was praised as a dramatic safety upgrade over its predecessor. It also was held up as a beautiful example of public art.

"I hope this is more than just connecting two land masses," said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. "I hope that the progress that's being represented at this moment is for a generation to dream big dreams and to do big things."

Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, cut a chain with a blow torch to mark the opening after leading those gathered around the bridge's toll plaza in a countdown to the reopening.

Plans initially called for a public celebration with fireworks, a concert, a half-marathon and more than 100,000 pedestrians crossing the bridge.

The new section of bridge has been under construction for almost a decade and follows years of political bickering, engineering challenges and cost overruns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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