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Richmond-San Rafael bridge closure announcement was just a prank

April is the cruelest month

The San Rafael Bridge. Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

Some Bay Area commuters received a seemingly alarming email from Richmond Mayor Tom Butt Monday claiming that the bridge between Richmond and San Rafael will soon close due to disrepair, possibly forever.

In part, Butt wrote:

The 63-year-old bridge appears to have reached the end of its useful life and will most likely have to be totally replaced, a process that could take as long as ten years and cost multi-billions of dollars.

[...] The risks have finally become just too great said Caltrans spokesman Effing Pont on March 29. “First, it was a few football-sized chunks of concrete falling on the lower deck, then a major swath of roadway gave way. Next, it will be a car or, God forbid, a garbage truck, falling through the deck. We can’t take that chance. The public’s safety is our highest priority.”

Butt claimed that the bridge would close “indefinitely” on April 15 so that inspections could help make the hard decision of whether to ever again open the span, complete with talk about weekend emergency meetings and the logistics of ferry traffic during the closure.

Savvy readers will not be surprised to learn that, in fact, Caltrans has announced no pending closure. The email was an April Fools’ Day prank on the part of the mayor, eager to make commuters the Butt of his joke for a few hours.

Butt fessed up in the final sentence of the message, wishing readers diligent enough to get that far “enjoy your April 1 – April Fool’s [sic] Day.”

Since the email came in at nearly 2,000 words, many readers didn’t make it as far as the reveal.

The prank was based on some real news: In February, the bridge closed to most traffic after the California Highway Patrol warned that “large pieces of concrete [...] fell from the top deck onto the lower deck.”

The bridge reopened at 8 p.m. that same day.