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The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

September 2, 2013

The Bay Bridge, which runs between Oakland and San Francisco, was constructed in the 1930s.  It is composed of two spans with Yerba Buena Island in between.  San_Francisco_Oakland_Bay_Bridge_Zan_810Bay Area drivers know it very well – more than a quarter vehicles are driven across it each day.

Long before I ever came to California, when I was a kid, one of my lifetime friends’ father told us how after he left the Navy he took a job painting the Bay Bridge.  Mr. Hernandez nonchalantly told us how they would climb up, start at one end of the bridge, work their way to the other side and then start over again.  Well that just seemed way too scary for me and I was duly impressed.  Even now, sitting here at the comforts of the desk thinking about strapping in with bucket and brush two hundred feet above the water makes my palms sweat.  Yikes!


I wonder if the survivors could ever drive across a bridge again.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake, a 6.9 with an epicenter 75 miles to the south near Santa Cruz, damaged the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.  A fifty foot section of the upper deck collapsed and fell on the lower deck.  It was closed for a month for repairs.

Construction work began in 2008 to replace the eastern span.  Traffic continued on the existing roadway throughout the construction period, but was cut-off last Wednesday to give the crew plenty of room to make final preparation for the opening of the new span, scheduled for 5:00 tomorrow morning.  It imageslooks like I’ll have my first drive over the new road later in the week.  While it was closed, people made other arrangements.  Many used BART, the train that runs through an underwater tube.  Thursday was a near-record day for the agency, with more than 475,000 passengers.  Evan Longoria, all-star third baseman for the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, chose BART over the team’s bus (which went south and then over the San Mateo Bridge) to get from the San Francisco hotel to the A’s game over in Oakland.  He gave the train very high reviews, by the way.

So congratulations to the people who know how to do these things.  Here is a four-minute time-lapsed video composed of two million images that show us the extent of their 42,000-hour engineering feat.  I highly recommend it.

  1. Roberta permalink

    Amazing feat!!!!!


  2. You describe the job in exactly the same detail I remember my dad sharing it, but alas it was the Golden Gate…and he turned the job down. “Yikes!” describes it perfectly…as well as his thoughts on the opportunity it presented. Glad to see the Bay Bridge finished!


    • Ha Ha! I think you don’t remember this exactly right, Pete. Don’t worry, it happens. It’s plain as day to me that it was the Bay Bridge and he was up and down those ladders. Maybe he gave you another set of facts to protect you from worrying.


  3. Pete,
    You Dad would tell us stuff he would never tell you.Good man your Dad, took me to my first major league baseball game.


    • As I told Pete, I have been running with that story for all these years. I’m not sure that I can change it at this point. I even remember his smile when he told the story.


  4. Having lived in Northern California and gone to Berkeley, I have many fond memories of the Bay Bridge and driving across it. My father used to tell stories about the World’s Fair on Treasure Island. And of course, crossing the Bay Bridge, meant I was returning to San Francisco, which was always a pleasure. –Curt


    • I am sure those are fond memories. It’s a beautiful vista. I drove across the new bridge tonight – SF to East Bay. It is so different than the old bridge. I never noticed how old the bridge looks until tonight, when I could see it from the new vantage point.


  5. Fascinating video. MAD and my pub are crazy about bridges. Nina, my nemesis, has a clear view of the varazzanno-narrows bridge from her litter box in Bay Ridge. But if you truly want a fascinating story about bridge construction, we recommend Dave McCullough’s the great bridge. It’s about the Brooklyn bridge. It’s packed with all the numbers, stats, history and other factoids we know you like. LMA


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