Man down after climbing atop Bay Bridge center anchorage

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- A man sitting atop the center anchorage of the Bay Bridge came down safely Wednesday afternoon after scaling the bridge structure and straddling it for over two hours, causing a massive traffic back up on the westbound lanes of Interstate 80 that extended into the East Bay.

The unidentified man, who is in his 30s, came down shortly after 1 p.m. but motorists traveling on the westbound span of the Bay Bridge should expect traffic delays while the congestion cleared. The man was taken to San Francisco General Hospital for a mental and drug evaluation, authorities said.

The California Highway Patrol said the man was talked down by negotiators with the San Francisco Police Department.

The incident began around 10 a.m. and lengthy delays were reported as law enforcement officers responded to the scene by car and by boat. CHP spokesman Sean Wilkenfeld said authorities closed the two westbound lanes of I-80 were closed between San Francisco and Treasure Island while authorities responded to the scene. The incident began around 10 a.m. and it prompted a massive traffic back-up.

Officers from the Coast Guard and San Francisco police were responding to the scene.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the man to climb atop the bridge structure. But CHP officials said the man's red truck ran out of gas and was blocking the far left westbound lane of the roadway. 

A Bay Bridge tow truck driver spotted his vehicle and pulled over to help, but the man took off.

"The driver jumped over the railing of the bridge and climbed up a ladder and was sitting on top of the center anchorage," said San Francisco police Officer Vu Williams.

The CHP then called in SFPD crisis negotiators who, by cell phone, were able to convince the man to surrender after a 2 1/2-hour standoff.

"The only response we could get was he indicated that if anybody climbed up there that he would jump off the bridge," Williams said.

The incident prompted a huge traffic back-up with motorists reporting being stuck in traffic ufor up to three hours.

"It took forever!" one driver said.

"It was brutal," another drive said. "I've never seen it this bad."

One motorist who drove from Pittsburg said he was ready to turn around and go home.

It took "two hours and traffic was hectic," the man said.

The trip from Oakland to San Francisco, which usually takes no more than 15 minutes, stretched to an hour or more for some motorists.

One woman said she spent 2 1/2 hours driving from Danville.

"I was pretty crazy," she said. "I left at 11 for my 12 o'clock meeting and apparently I'm late! It's now 1:30!"

The incident underscores security concerns for some Bay Area drivers since this was the second incident in as many weeks of someone scaling a Bay Area bridge.

On May 17, video of two men who climbed the Golden Gate bridge surfaced, causing some to wonder how the pair managed to climb the bridge and not get caught.

Some drivers asked how a someone could stop on the Bay Bridge and climb up the anchorage without being detected or caught by police.

"I would think that security would be even higher after what happened in Manchester, England," said one Oakland commuter.

CHP officials said the bridge is monitored around the clock and hosts several security cameras.

It was not immediately clear if the man would be charged in connection with the incident.

KTVU reporter Tara Moriarty contributed to this report.

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