OAKLAND -- After a 24-year wait for a new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, the first commute day on the Bay Area's freshest landmark was rather anticlimactic.

Sure, there were the expected traffic backups Tuesday -- exacerbated by thousands of bridge-gazers who just couldn't wait to cruise under the big white cables -- but nothing too crazy.

"It was pretty much a normal day," said California Highway Patrol Officer Ron Simmons.

The exception was the midday period, when bridge traffic usually lightens up. Instead, it still looked like rush hour close to lunchtime, possibly because locals figured it would be a better time to soak in the new drive -- and because of people strolling in late to work because of the long holiday weekend, the CHP said.

Plenty of motorists posted photos and videos to the Web, despite a stern warning from the CHP that they would not tolerate distracted driving -- no matter how badly drivers wanted to show their friends how cool the new drive was.

Motorcyclists with helmet cams posted videos of themselves whizzing by traffic while providing a play-by-play of their inaugural ride. For several drivers and passengers, the normally mundane activity of stopping in gridlock for several minutes at the toll plaza and metering lights was now worthy of being uploaded to YouTube. Most commuters slowed down around the new tower to take in the landmark in all its 525-foot-high glory.


"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."

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. The driver, who took photos of the old bridge, was told by CHP officers to beat 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.

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.

Though the roadway opened Monday night, the 15½ -foot wide bike and pedestrian path along the edge of the bridge did not debut until Tuesday at noon.

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 currently in the way, gets demolished. And even then, the western half of the bridge still won't have a bike or pedestrian path.

But local walkers and cyclists, separated by a barrier from vehicles, were exciting nonetheless for their debut journey along the noisy corridor. A couple of hundred people piled on to the path in the first hour, and 1,000 bicyclists planned an organized evening ride.

"It was fantastic," said Jadyne Buchholz, 66, of Kensington, who parked her car in Oakland and walked to the path. "It's too bad you can't go all the way to San Francisco. But at least they had enough foresight to bring it this far."

Staff writer Rick Hurd contributed to this report. Contact Mike Rosenberg at mrosenberg@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5705. Follow him at Twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.