Somewhere around 8 p.m. on Wednesday the last car will traverse the eastern span of the Bay Bridge before it is once again closed to traffic on a Labor Day weekend.
We should be used to this by now. After all, Caltrans previously has used this particular weekend -- which is usually relatively slow -- to halt all traffic on the bridge so as to accommodate heavy construction work.
But, if everything goes as planned this weekend, this will be the last time, and that car on Wednesday night will be the last tollpayer ever to use that span of the bridge.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the plan is that when the bridge is reopened Tuesday morning, all traffic will be channeled onto the long-awaited new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
As has been well-detailed on these pages, the new span comes in wildly over initial cost estimates and a mere 24 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake dislodged a single section of the bridge's upper roadway in 1989.
If we were to list the problems and concerns connected with construction of the bridge span from 1989 to present, we would run out of space on the page. Suffice it to say, they are legion.
The freshest in our minds, of course, is the cracking of huge bolts that were designed to be part of the earthquake protection system. Caltrans engineers say they have devised a temporary fix and have assured the public that the new span with the temporary fix is substantially more safe than the existing eastern span that leads from Oakland to Treasure Island.
The federal government reviewed Caltrans' findings and said its engineers saw no reason not to go ahead with the Labor Day opening. More work must be done on the bridge -- including the installation of a pathway for bicycle access -- and the old span must still be demolished, but the opening of the new span is a day long-awaited by East Bay commuters and residents.
Drivers on the new span will no doubt be pleased that the infamous S curve is gone from it. The tricky curve was installed on the old span a number of years ago as a means of accommodating construction needs for the new bridge.
It was a necessary evil that required motorists to slow their speed significantly as they approached it. Removal of that obstacle from the new span is likely to be met with universal relief from those who must navigate the bridge regularly.
While the eastern span took far too long and was far too expensive, we are happy that at last the people who are paying so dearly finally get to use it.