SAN FRANCISCO -- Mammoth traffic jams and a nighttime fireworks show capped the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, delighting thousands of spectators and dismaying thousands more.
Roads leading to San Francisco were jammed solid with cars in tie-ups lasting several hours and stretching more than 12 miles from the Bay Bridge south to the Carquinez Bridge in Contra Costa County and about nine miles from the Golden Gate Bridge north to Corta Madera in Marin County, the California Highway Patrol said.
Overheated cars on the eight-mile span caused dozens of stalls, but motorists trapped on the bridge made the best of it and left their cars to watch the Saturday night rocket display over the bay from one of the best vantage points available. About 150 cars were hauled off the bridge in a two-hour period, a bridge spokesman said.
Some 1,000 boats crowded into the bay near the foot of the bridge, and about 30 aircraft -- half of them helicopters -- jockeyed for airspace, the Coast Guard said.
Seventeen technicians spent three days emptying two 41-foot semi-trailer trucks full of explosives and laying 20 miles of wiring to detonate up to 20 rockets at once. The 20-minute, $100,000 show was donated by Robert Souza, president of Pyro Spectaculars, a spokesman said.
Thousands of would-be spectators, who tried to avoid the traffic jams by using BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit high-speed rail system, never made it. They found many BART stations closed by officials worried about the throngs who crowded onto its platforms.
A giant sound system at the waterfront blared Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Glenn Miller's 'In the Mood,' and Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' as the pyrotechnic display soared 1,200 feet into the sky from six barges anchored offshore.
The display ended a week-long celebration of a half-century of service by the Bay Bridge, which opened on Nov. 12, 1936.