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Traffic moves along W. Grand on Tuesday May 1, 2007 in Oakland, California. (Aric Crabb /The Oakland Tribune)
OAKLAND — Day 2 and still no traffic nightmares. Whew!

"It's the same as any other day," said Dieter Weihl, gesturing to the traffic flowing at a fast clip about 4:30 p.m. along West Grand Avenue.

The normally sparsely traveled truck route has become the main artery for funneling detoured freeway traffic after the destruction early Sunday of the busiest interchange in Northern California.

"Considering how bad it could have been, compared to the Loma Prieta disruption, this is really not that bad," Weihl said, referring to the destruction caused by the 1989 earthquake.

Maybe the calm was the result of motorists avoiding the gridlock feared after the destruction of two key East Bay freeway ramps that will take months and tens of millions of dollars to rebuild.

BART reported a spike in ridership, as did the ferry service.

The worry is that the trend won't stick, and Bay Area motorists will be climbing back in their cars as time passes, creating traffic mayhem.

"The real acid test is in the days to come," CHP Sgt. Les Bishop said at a Tuesday news briefing.

CHP has deployed additional officers along the West Grand corridor and at 7th Street to keep traffic flowing and keep an eye on drivers tempted to diverge from the designated route by making temporarily illegal left turns.

Their presence will last at least 60 days, and longer if necessary, said CHP Capt. James Leonard.

Crossing guards also will be present from

7 a.m. to 5 p.m. along West Grand at Filbert, Myrtle and Linden streets.


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The idea is to ensure motorists are extra aware of pedestrians and children and how the detour affects them, said Oakland Police Department Lt. Anthony Banks.

Even public transit was spared a worst-case scenario.

BART couldn't count passengers Monday because no fare was being charged, but observers placed on station platforms estimated ridership to be comparable to any normal Monday. There was only a slight higher-than-usual use just before and after rush hours as commuters took advantage of extra BART service.

But fares were back in effect Tuesday, and BART counted about 158,000 riders from 4 a.m. to noon — that's about 13,000, or 9 percent, more than average. BART added cars and its number of train trips during the peak commute periods to handle the added load, and will do so again today.

Demand for parking at BART stations has risen accordingly; riders are encouraged to take other public transit to reach BART, or to park at the BART stations at North Concord/Martinez, Richmond, Coliseum/Oakland Airport, Hayward, South Hayward, Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae.

AC Transit spokesman Clarence Johnson, whose agency maintains a system of transbay buses, said Tuesday afternoon "there was no visible spike in our level of ridership from today or yesterday; we're running just about normal on both of these days so far this week."

As for slowed service, "We really didn't have any delays, it's just unbelievable," he said. "We were really bracing for the worst, but so far it hasn't materialized."

Ferry manager Ernest Sanchez of the Alameda/Oakland Ferry Service, operated by the City of Alameda and the Port of Oakland, said his boats carried about 6,000 people Monday — about three times the normal load.

"Today we don't have numbers yet, but it seems to be a normal, maybe even a quiet Tuesday," he said Tuesday afternoon. "It doesn't look like a spike today."

West Oakland, however, still is reckoning with the aftermath that has detoured motorists through the neighborhood that abuts Interstates 80, 580 and 880.

Traffic began picking up about 5 p.m. as more motorists poured off eastbound Interstate 80 onto West Grand.

"It's kind of nice to have company," said Karen Cusolito on her way to work at American Steel on Mandela Parkway, just past the West Grand intersection. "Otherwise, it's a pretty desolate place."

Tuesday was at least quieter without noisy helicopters hovering above the neighborhood.

"We're lucky we weren't affected by the traffic," said resident Mariana Hightower, adding that she usually avoids West Grand altogether.

Errant vehicles, however, were noticeable around the neighborhood, she said, because "the average commuter doesn't know West Oakland."

As for fears about the impact the increased traffic would have on air pollution, Brian Coleman said he had not noticed a change. 

But it's bad anyway," he said. "Funneling cars through here won't help."