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Bay Area’s new $6.4 billion bridge in business

Span opens nearly 24 years after earthquake

After decades of delay, the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened to traffic just before the start of the morning rush-hour commute on Tuesday.

STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS

After decades of delay, the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened to traffic just before the start of the morning rush-hour commute on Tuesday.

SAN FRANCISCO — New bridge, same traffic.

The gleaming white and newly built $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.

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California Highway Patrol 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.’’

Officers have not encountered any instances of people pulling over to take pictures of the span, Morgan said.

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

One person also received a warning for driving and taking pictures on the closed section of the old bridge, Morgan said.

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

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

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

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan predicted the path itself would become a local attraction.

‘‘Just enjoying that will become an experience that people all over the Bay Area, and probably all over the world, are going to want to have,’’ she said.

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