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The Bay Bridge is now closed
September 3, 2009 8:51 PM   Subscribe

The San Francisco Bay Bridge has been shut down for the weekend to allow workers to roll a section of the old bridge away, and roll in a temporary section, while they build the new permanent bridge. Download the video here showing how they'll do it.

Web cams let you keep an eye on the whole thing. BART is running 24 hours, which inspired at least one pajama party on the BART trains. Everyone's gearing up for all sorts of transportation confusion, despite months of warnings and efforts to redirect people. Hopefully, everyone headed for Burning Man has already left the city.

All of this work is to build a replacement for the Eastern span of the Bay Bridge, the section damaged in the 1989 earthquake. Yes, it has taken 20 years to replace it. The whole thing is being filmed by National Geographic, for a show on "unprecedented construction feats."

Google Earth will show you what the finished product will look like (turn 3D Buildings on).

Previously, with much of the history behind the construction.
posted by gingerbeer (61 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
The bridge retrofit/replacement's been going on for longer than I've lived in the East Bay. I hope to see the Eastern span fitted into place before I die, but I'm not holding much hope at this point.
posted by lekvar at 9:15 PM on September 3, 2009


Sigh, and tomorrow afternoon I'm going to be trying to drive from SFO to Calistoga for a wedding. The one weekend of the year that I'm out there and yinz decide to shut the place down.
posted by octothorpe at 9:18 PM on September 3, 2009


Yeah, I'm glad I'm not there.
posted by blucevalo at 9:20 PM on September 3, 2009


Ok, I read the links, but I honestly can't figure out what this switch is going to do. I see (from the video) how the new piece slides in and switches traffic to a different route, but I really can't find any overview for how this fits in with replacing the whole bridge. Diagram please?
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:22 PM on September 3, 2009


here's the time lapse from the last time they closed the bridge for a weekend (very cool):

http://baybridgeinfo.org/dl.php?file=movfiles/west_approach_demolition.m4v


And another time lapse video (I'm a sucker for these):

http://baybridgeinfo.org/dl.php?file=movfiles/ybi_viaduct_timelapse.m4v

It amazes me the people can do things on such a large scale.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 9:29 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's taking too long and it's costing too much, but damn, it's cool. It's amazing to drive across the bridge and see the changes taking place.
posted by rtha at 9:32 PM on September 3, 2009


I went on an awesome boat tour of the Bay Bridge as part of this year's Laborfest. The best factoid I learned was that the original Eastern Span, which we're all still driving over, has a foundation of Doug Fir.

Also, the original Bay Bridge was built in three years. The Golden Gate Bridge was being built simultaneously - as were dozens (hundreds?) of other large WPA projects around the Bay Area. Boy, they sure were efficient back then! Of course, more than 20 workers died building it (I can't find the exact number online right now).

Oh, and the Wikipedia page is pretty good.

Thanks for the great post!
posted by serazin at 9:35 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


SFO to Calistoga shouldn't be a problem, octothorpe. A little more traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, but otherwise fine.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:39 PM on September 3, 2009


kiltedtaco, they are going to attach the new self-anchored bridge to the place that's been bypassed. there's a video of the whole operation on baybridgeinfo.org...
posted by joeblough at 9:41 PM on September 3, 2009


After an aside, I'll come back to the topic.
Joseph B. Strauss is credited with designing and building the Golden Gate Bridge. Build it he did, but he didn't design it. Thank goodness, because he liked trestle, and here is his design for the bridge. He hired the architect Irving Morrow who designed the simple, wonderful art-deco design of the present Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately Morrow was very humble, so he didn't try to take credit from his attention seeking boss.

What has this to do with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge? This bridge is actually two bridges with an island in the middle. With this bridge the trestle fans got their way with the Oakland side. You can see the result here.

It turns out that a trestle bridge doesn't hold up well in an earthquake. It didn't 'give' when the underlying land moved, and so the roadway collapsed on the Oakland side.

It really doesn't matter what the final bridge design looks like because anything will be better than its predecessor.

San Francisco's own Emperor Norton ordered the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1872, and they finally built it in 1937, 70 years before the start of (part of) its replacement.
posted by eye of newt at 9:44 PM on September 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Just found from wp page: footage (promotional) of original bridge construction!
posted by serazin at 9:45 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


kiltedtaco, the key is that the work they're doing this weekend is to create a temporary approach to the existing eastern span, so that they can demolish the old permanent approach and rebuild it to connect to the new parallel eastern spans, creating a new main span with one tower. When that's done -- about four years from now -- the route being put in place this weekend will be taken apart again. You will exit the tunnel and go straight onto the new span.
posted by dhartung at 9:45 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


yeah they wanted to name part of the new bridge (or maybe the whole thing) the 'emporer norton' bridge but i think the oakland city council torpedoed that idea. lame-asses.
posted by joeblough at 9:46 PM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


How cool, serazin! That footage is great.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:53 PM on September 3, 2009


This post is awesome! It's weird too, watching those time lapse videos, I just got struck with a sense of pride for California. It also made me realize that I haven't felt that way about this place for quite some time. I have to take BART to the East Bay tomorrow and I'm hoping the feeling lasts.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:59 PM on September 3, 2009


Also, in the second video linked above, I love the daily shadow monster that takes over just before the sun sets.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:01 PM on September 3, 2009


Oh, one other thing that hadn't occurred to me until I heard about it on the boat tour: the new bridge is being built it China and shipped here in chunks.
posted by serazin at 10:44 PM on September 3, 2009


I feel like way more effort has been put into their fancy web interface than on actually completing the bridge. Or at least explaining in any reasonable fashion why it's so complicated and needs so much money (I know there are real, geologic reasons). I remember voting a few years ago on a measure that would move money to extend BART via higher bridge tolls - something sorely needed - but that money (tolls raised) was diverted to pay for the bridge that never ends.

I would like some information on how exactly money is being spent on building the new bridge.

It's all very cool, the bridge-building aspect of it all, but the whole 'bridge needs more money, give bridge money' just bugs me. Neat time-lapse on the engineering, though.
posted by waitangi at 10:53 PM on September 3, 2009


> Also, the original Bay Bridge was built in three years. The Golden Gate Bridge was being built simultaneously - as were dozens (hundreds?) of other large WPA projects around the Bay Area.

It is infinitely easier to build a bridge where there wasn't one before, than to try to replace one that already exists. And as the saying goes, done right, done fast, done cheap; pick two (or in this case, maybe it's pick one).
posted by mrzarquon at 10:58 PM on September 3, 2009


this one ain't cheap or fast, so I hope its right!
posted by serazin at 11:10 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Serazin: The company my dad was employed by for years was one of the original contractors working on the new bridge. USI in Vancouver, Washington. A few years ago there were issues with steel shortages, I'm not sure of the cause of these, and how far reaching the shortages were. This shortage, coupled with what my dad says was a case of slight mismangement of the project at work, and what was purposefully a slow and steady approach to the project (this is a big deal after all, a rush job on something this major is likely not in the public's best interest), put them behind Caltrans schedule. The daily fines were astounding. As this was a few years ago I'm not remembering the specific dollar amount but I do remember practically shitting myself at how high it was. USI went bankrupt. So it goes.

Some of the guys my dad worked with actually got jobs with Chinese companies very shortly after this happened, making quite a bit of money. It seems the Chinese were willing to pay a premium for highly skilled American labor when it came to this project. I think my dad debated going (he's a Quality Control dude, which pays a lot here, and surely would have over there on this project), but ended up staying here.
posted by rainperimeter at 11:24 PM on September 3, 2009


Fascinating. I love hearing these details!

sorry to be dominating this thread
posted by serazin at 11:28 PM on September 3, 2009


yeah they wanted to name part of the new bridge (or maybe the whole thing) the 'emporer norton' bridge but i think the oakland city council torpedoed that idea. lame-asses.

They torpedoed it because Emperor Norton has nothing to do with Oakland. If they were to rename the entire bridge after Norton I, fine. But since the SF side is already called the "Sunny Jim" Randolph Bridge, we Oaklanders will name our own damn bridge, thank you very much.
posted by clorox at 12:40 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The San Francisco Bay Bridge has been shut down for the weekend to allow workers to roll a section of the old bridge away, and roll in a temporary section, while they build the new permanent bridge."

Damn metric system!
posted by markkraft at 4:02 AM on September 4, 2009


Have faith SanFran. Chicago's legendary "unprecedented construction feat," the Deep Tunnel, now has, according to Wikipedia, a completion date of 2019, so these things do happen, often in record time! (Deep Tunnel was started, iirc, the year I moved to Chicago, 1978).
posted by nax at 6:51 AM on September 4, 2009


This sure would be a crappy day to move from one side of the bay to the other. I'm glad I'm not moving across the bay today, because what kind of sense would that make?
posted by kirkaracha at 6:59 AM on September 4, 2009


*sigh* About to start my commute from Berkeley to San Francisco. Wish me luck! BART's gonna suck.
posted by brundlefly at 7:08 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bridge closed; East Bay cut off.
posted by Nelson at 7:12 AM on September 4, 2009


You know, there was just an article in the Washington Post about people being upset that there would be three Metro stops closed this weekend for track work (shuttle service is being provided, though). One girl actually complained she couldn't go to the mall. No, not the National Mall -- Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. She couldn't go shopping.

I don't even want to think about the ensuing level of whininess if they closed something as major as the Bay Bridge around here (and honestly, we don't really have anything that's anywhere close to that scale).

Good luck if this affects you this weekend. I think it would be an excellent excuse just to stay home.
posted by darksong at 7:51 AM on September 4, 2009


kiltedtaco: does this diagram help?

From the same article:

The huge pieces will be rolled out and in on specially built rails, outfitted with Teflon pads and lubricated with dish soap (Dawn, for those who want to know) for easy sliding.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2009


Huh. BART wasn't packed at all. Then again I left a bit early.
posted by brundlefly at 8:30 AM on September 4, 2009


Your transit doesn't normally run 24 hours a day? How do you live?
posted by Eideteker at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2009


It's true Eideteker - BART usually closes at night. Just one of the ways we're a pathetic backwater. Seriously though, BART was designed for commuters and commuters are still its main customers. BART construction was directly (if only partially) responsible for the destruction of a number of urban (read: black/ethnic) neighborhoods that it continues to underserve while catering to wealthy office workers who live in outlying areas. BART would be so much awesomer if it ran at night. Also, if it was cheaper. Also, if their cops stopped shooting us.
posted by serazin at 8:45 AM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


They torpedoed it because Emperor Norton has nothing to do with Oakland. If they were to rename the entire bridge after Norton I, fine. But since the SF side is already called the "Sunny Jim" Randolph Bridge, we Oaklanders will name our own damn bridge, thank you very much.

given that the bridge does not belong to oakland or san francisco, i think its ridiculous that either city thinks it has the "right" to name either or both sides.

i live in oakland; i've lived here for almost 10 years now, and i think this is a fabulous idea. after all, the bridge was Norton I's idea when oakland was just a railyard.
posted by joeblough at 9:06 AM on September 4, 2009


BART would be so much awesomer if it ran at night. Also, if it was cheaper. Also, if their cops stopped shooting us.

Geez, serazin, you're asking an awful lot. /sarcasm

Doesn't the Metro in DC still shut down around midnight? When I lived there, they were experimenting with running it later on Friday and Saturday nights - until 2am, I think. I vaguely recall Metro officials being so! surprised! at the number of riders using the system at that hour.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on September 4, 2009


BART construction was directly (if only partially) responsible for the destruction of a number of urban (read: black/ethnic) neighborhoods that it continues to underserve while catering to wealthy office workers who live in outlying areas.

It was not my experience that BART catered particularly to "wealthy office workers who live in outlying areas," unless you mean the fact that BART's spending kajillions on extensions and augmentations to the Dublin/Pleasanton line and not doing anything to improve the other lines (the Richmond line especially). I saw plenty of non-wealthy workers commuting to and from outlying areas when I rode BART every day (and I was one of them). I'd guess that most wealthy workers stay in their cars parked on 680 and 580 and never deign to ride BART unless it's an emergency, because they think that it's filthy and caters too much to non-wealthy workers.
posted by blucevalo at 11:05 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


A useful picture of what is being swapped out and the temporary stretch of highway can be found at the nice writeup by the folks at the TransBay Blog.

My office is on 1st St. here in SF, which is one of the arteries that feeds the Bay Bridge traffic to Oakland, and with the bridge closed the street is practically deserted. Woo!
posted by ooga_booga at 12:18 PM on September 4, 2009


I'm trying to picture 1st Street deserted -- must be kind of eerie.
posted by blucevalo at 12:21 PM on September 4, 2009


I've lived in the Bay Area for a bit over 10 years & never realized how ridiculously long the Bay Bridge is. The Western portion (San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island) is two suspension bridges. I've driven past the monster block where the anchorages are but never thought of it that way. The Eastern portion is a double-tower cantilever span, five medium-span truss bridges, and a 14-section truss causeway.
posted by morganw at 1:16 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Western portion (San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island) is two suspension bridges. I've driven past the monster block where the anchorages are but never thought of it that way.

Whoa. Never realized that either!
posted by brundlefly at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2009


ooga_booga - photos of first street would be awesome!
posted by serazin at 2:33 PM on September 4, 2009


Yeah, pix or it wasn't empty!
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on September 4, 2009


Derail (so to speak) on the BART issue:

Lest ye all think I'm talking out my ass, BART was designed specifically to meet the needs of Bay Area suburbanites, often at the cost of working class people and people of color.

- The [Bay Area Rapid Transit District] Commission's least-cost solution to traffic tie-ups was to recommend forming a five-county rapid transit district, whose mandate would be to build and operate a high-speed rapid rail network linking major commercial centers with suburban sub-centers. (From BART's official history page)

- Unlike the New York City Subway or the London Underground, individual BART lines were not designed to provide frequent local service, as evidenced by the system's current maximum achievable headway of 13.33 minutes per line through the quadruple interlined section. ...BART could in many ways be characterized as a "commuter subway," since it has many characteristics of a commuter rail system, including lengthy lines that extend to the far reaches of suburbia with significant distances between most adjacent stations.(Unreferenced but well articulated analysis of BART as a commuter line with some characteristics of an urban subway from Wikipedia.)

- Then in the mid-'60s, the West Oakland BART station was installed on Seventh Street. To save money, the line was built overhead -- unlike the underground lines in Berkeley and downtown Oakland -- right down the middle of Seventh. The noise created by the trains made it difficult for musical acts to play. (From SF Gate article on a project related to historic 7th Street in West Oakland, once a hub of African American culture that declined in large part due to the construction of the Cypress Freeway, the West Oakland Post Office, and the above ground West Oakland BART station.)

Lots of people ride BART: poor and rich, black and white, young and old, you and I. But take a ride on a few of AC Transit's more popular lines and peep the difference in demographics between the bus and BART. The dominant demographic characteristics of AC Transit riders are youth, African American ethnicity, and female gender. BART at rush hour is pretty much the opposite.

posted by serazin at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's 10:00 PM EDT, and I'm watching the Bay Bridge transfer right freaking now. It's amazing.
posted by ardgedee at 7:01 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


So. Cool.
posted by rtha at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2009


This camera angle's good too.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:55 PM on September 4, 2009


gingerbeer: "SFO to Calistoga shouldn't be a problem, octothorpe. A little more traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, but otherwise fine."

Well, I had to pick up someone at the Oakland Airport on the way which meant the San Mateo bridge and then route 880 which was pretty horrible and then later 5 MPH traffic through Napa. All together, the drive took about 5.5 hours, only slightly less than the flight from Pittsburgh to SFO took.
posted by octothorpe at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2009


Eideteker: "Your transit doesn't normally run 24 hours a day? How do you live?"

My city's bus/light rail system shutdown around midnight too. I think that's pretty typical outside of NYC/Chicago.
posted by octothorpe at 10:40 AM on September 5, 2009


New chunk going in now! That webcam is awesome.
posted by serazin at 12:16 PM on September 5, 2009


Yes, a stop at OAK would make that a much, much longer trip, octothorpe! That's a nasty journey with the bridge open.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:20 PM on September 5, 2009


@octothorpe-- even in Chicago two of the rail lines and something like 40% of the buses shut down somewhere betw midnight and 2 a.m., leaving most of the west side without transit until 6 a.m. The close-in, old line suburb of Evanston has NO Sunday bus service. But we better not fund public transit, cuz I think that would be soshalizm.
posted by nax at 6:02 PM on September 5, 2009


I remember being fascinated by the live webcam they had back in 2007. It was pretty neat this year to see them, Thursday night, tearing the thing apart. Sparks everywhere.

Thanks for the links. I've always liked the Bay Bridge more than the Golden Gate Bridge for some reason. Probably because it is used by, and means much more to, most of the people in this area. That and suspension bridges with more than three spans are pretty uncommon. Apart from Japan, I am not sure of any other country that has them. Although they do have the Bay Bridge beat.
posted by chemoboy at 7:49 PM on September 5, 2009


Uh oh.
posted by mattdidthat at 9:21 AM on September 6, 2009


they think they might be able to get that repaired before tuesday morning... they are setting expectations pretty low though.
posted by joeblough at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2009


I'm a little late, but gingerbeer deserves the credit for finding the best diagram of the change.
posted by kiltedtaco at 5:41 PM on September 7, 2009


And here's what it looks like now as you drive across.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:32 PM on September 8, 2009


'>time lapse!
posted by serazin at 10:13 PM on September 9, 2009


Uh, or not. How about this:

posted by serazin at 10:14 PM on September 9, 2009


OK, HERE! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTM6Ux8Viak&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Freader%2Fview%2F&feature=player_embedded#t=226
posted by serazin at 10:14 PM on September 9, 2009


How about this one?

(same link as serazin, but cleaned up)
posted by mrzarquon at 10:25 PM on September 9, 2009


thanks mrzarquon!
posted by serazin at 10:30 PM on September 9, 2009


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