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Anniversary Car Count Honors a Bridge Veteran

United Press International

Officials on the nation’s second-busiest bridge honored driver No. 2,222,222,222--that’s 2 billion, etc.--during a brief ceremony designed to kick off 50th anniversary celebrations.

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the second-busiest in the nation, Caltrans publicist Bob Halligan said. Only the Triborough Bridge in New York carries more traffic, he said.

The 2-billion-plus honor went to a salesman from suburban Piedmont, Ed Crinnion, who approached the toll plaza at 9:36 a.m. Friday, the moment Caltrans engineers calculated car No. 2,222,222,222 would arrive.

William O. McCarthy, driver of the first car to cross the bridge when it opened Nov. 12, 1936, stepped up to the sedan in Lane 1 of the toll plaza and asked the driver if he could spare a few minutes.

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Crinnion said he would, and pulled into the parking lot.

When he learned his was the big number, Crinnion disclosed that his job has him “hitting all three bridges” in the Bay Area, which include the San Mateo and Golden Gate. In fact, he almost decided against making the crossing at the spot where McCarthy was waiting.

“I was going from the (Oakland) Airport area to the Peninsula,” he said, “so I could have taken either bridge. I sort of mentally flipped a coin and decided on the Bay Bridge. I figured it was late enough in the morning that traffic wouldn’t be too bad.”

As coincidences would have it, Crinnion said he was present on the day McCarthy drove the first car across the Bay Bridge in 1936. He was aboard his father’s boat, which was part of the celebratory flotilla on the bay, he said.

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E. R. Foley, former chief engineer of the Bay Toll Authority, which built and operated the bridge until Caltrans took over in 1970, noted that it took 31 years and 10 months for the first billion vehicles to cross the bridge, but only another 14 years and 7 months for the second billion.

At the present rate of about 250,000 crossings a day, car No. 3 billion should arrive in nine years or less, he said.

Foley, chairman of the 50th Bay Bridge Birthday Steering Committee, said several other events are planned leading up to the Nov. 12 anniversary. They include a giant birthday cake at the center anchorage of the suspension section, special lighting, a yacht parade on the bay, an antique car parade, a foot race, civic celebrations in San Francisco and Oakland and, beginning with Fleet Week in October, a military air show and naval parade.


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