Our Beloved Bay Bridge, In The Beginning

In honor of this weekend’s Oakland Bay Bridge closure heading westbound, we decided to remember the 75-year-old in better days.  As a newborn, she was an engineering marvel and the longest cantilever bridge in the world.

Let’s flashback to the four-day long, bridge opening celebration.  Julian Lozos, a San Franciscan, shared this cover art from the ceremony program itself.  The cover, which Lozos discovered and bought on eBay, is a thing of 1936 deco-beauty.  Though I wonder why all the people seem mellow and a bit snobbish.  Show some enthusiasm!

Next, we go to the Bay Bridge parade route.  Another local, Ward Ryan, digitized films about Bay Bridge construction and discovered this lovely parade float.  Who are these goddesses adorning the bridge?  Do they provide a classy touch or something more?  We think they have been replaced by our lucky troll, who currently resides on the bridge itself.

Last but not least, we present an image from the Little Miss Bay Bridge contest.  Pleasanton resident J. Boles shared this snapshot of his mother, who represented Emeryville and won the contest.  She was awarded a nice ribbon by actress Rochelle Hudson, a big deal at the time.  So we have proof there were contests well before the Toddlers & Tiaras era.

The Bay Bridge has done yeoman’s service, without major changes.  Her two decks were revamped over fifty years ago, to remove the trains and accommodate growing vehicle traffic.  And we know about the fixes since the 1989 Loma Prieta collapse, necessary but not sufficient for long-term safety.  The bridge could only last for a lifetime.

On Labor Day 2013, we will marvel at our brand-new, replacement bridge that moves with earthquakes.  She will become another shining beacon, complete with open views towards Oakland and the hills.  And we’ll all be there, this time.

P.S.  Tip of the hat, to contributors and posters on Facebook’s Bay Bridge memories.

Advertisements

We’ll Take Some Rumble Strips

Rumble strips are supposed to alert drivers, when regular warnings or signals just won’t do.  Come to think of it, we’ll take some strips to slow down Moraga Avenue speedsters leaving the Warren Freeway.  Nothing else has worked yet!

Unfortunately, new strips installed on the Oakland Bay Bridge haven’t been greeted with open arms.  “This is the last place you want to put rumble strips, because rumble strips cause very serious vibration,” declared Hassan Astaneh, a Berkeley mechanical engineering professor.  And vibrations contribute to possible bridge failures, like last year’s eyebar collapse.

According to ABC7 News, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney begged to differ.  “There’s nothing about the rumble strips that cause any type of damage to the east span of the Bay Bridge,” explained Ney.  “The addition of a 3/8 of an inch doesn’t cause any measurable short-term fatigue. ”  But we’re already fatigued, and will keep our fingers crossed.

P.S.  We weren’t kidding about rumble strips for Montclair arterials, like Moraga Avenue.

America Sees Our Eastern Span

Your faithful blogger has been on a quick trip east, talking up Oakland as usual.  No one really cared much about Oakland, until 60 Minutes came to the rescue last night.  They aired a story about the urgent need to earthquake-proof the Bay Bridge, slinging superlatives about the new Eastern Span under construction.  We were so proud!

Of course, the TV segment considered the grandparent and grandchild bridges side-by-side.  Caltrans Spokesman Bart Ney received plenty of airtime and he showed the new bridge in ways we have already seen.  The original bridge was rigid, and a marvel for its time.  The new bridge enables movement, and certain parts can bend and break so the whole remains intact.

In typical 60 Minutes style, the piece played up the current risks of living with the grandparent Eastern Span.  The facts are undeniable, since the Hayward Fault quake and the replacement bridge are both well overdue.  Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission almost shrugged his shoulders, responding to the concerns in a hopeful yet realistic manner.

This TV program didn’t touch on what Bay Area residents think or do about earthquake preparations.  Oaklanders even ran a major drill in Oakland this past weekend.  Residents are learning, finally, where to turn off their gas and what they should do to be self-sufficient for a couple days.  There’s no point in living with hysterical fear, que sera, sera.

By 2013, the Eastern Span will likely open for business.  In the meantime, all of America glimpsed this gorgeous engineering marvel and acknowledged the Contra Costa and Oakland – at least for a few fleeting minutes.

Imagine Bay Bridge As Tourist Destination

With the new and gorgeous Eastern Span of the Oakland Bay Bridge only a couple years away, there’s an opportunity to create an Oakland-based Gateway Park – and to draw visitors of all stripes.  The Gateway Park Working Group, consisting of reps from an alphabet soup of public agencies, is trying to create this park from scratch.

Imagine all the visitors at Gateway Park. If there’s an easy way to get there, we think that visitors would flock to this new Contra Costa vantage point.  At land’s end, you would glimpse glorious views of San Francisco to rival other Bay Area locales.  In addition, Treasure Island, two bridge spans and the bay itself are better than whipped cream and cherries.

Tourists and locals need something to do, once there.  The park could become a recreational destination, where bicyclers are encouraged to take the out-and-back trip between the new Eastern Span and Treasure Island.  There might be a kayak launch pad at this location.  Plus we envision historical and environmental signage placed around the walking trails.

Remember to feed the masses. To become a full-fledged tourist spot, there’s gotta be places to park, hang out, buy memorabilia and grab a snack.  We have the competitive chops to do “one better” than what you get at the Golden Gate Bridge, especially the dismal food offerings.

Coordination among different landowners comes into play.  The park site is old U.S. Army property now administered by the East Bay Regional Park District.  The west gateway area, slotted for retail uses, is owned by the City of Oakland.  Perhaps some of the other contiguous landowners should get in this game as well, to ensure there’s enough space to fulfill visitor dreams.

At this point, the Gateway Park Working Group has generated plans which are available here.  They are asking the public to weigh in, through this park survey.  Be heard now, on this legacy in-the-making!

Your Interests Changed This Year

At least your online search interests changed this year vs. last year, when we peered into search terms used to discover Today in Montclair, 94611.  The people have spoken!

During 2009, everything we could unearth and share about the Oakland Bay Bridge was hot stuff.  All the changes, disruptions, accidents and new construction captured so many dependents living here.  Next on the list was the local graffiti, which definitely created a depressing buzz when the latest round hit hard:  “SNS” tags, anyone?

This year, the virtual art shows also were very popular.  Pixs from our local sidewalk festival artisans and grade schoolers created the most traffic.  There was plenty of searching for Bert Monroy, who creates photoshop realism, as well as Marisa Muliadi-Kleiber and Janette MacKinlay.

On a newsier front, we covered Oakland Police Officer Murray Hoyle’s funeral and FC Gold and Olympic Soccer Star Tiffeny Milbrett’s appearance – and you keep searching for them today.  By contrast, our top searches were all about Hans Reiser last year, when he fully confessed about killing and burying his almost-ex, Nina.

During 2008, Montclarions were more focused on fires, crime, voting and home values.  A year later, we hadn’t experienced major flames, above-average burglaries, another U.S. prexy election, or more precipitous declines in real estate prices.  Ergo, your interests and searching activities also mellowed out.

What’s stayed the same?  Despite the 2009 recession, you are still shopping online and remain quite tuned into all the places closing or opening in Montclair Village.  You still love your pizza, and that need for the quick and easy feed makes sense.

Finally, we witnessed Hollywood’s hold on our collective zeitgeist.  As proof, Brad Pitt’s plans to film in Oakland created feverish pitch and then died down quickly.  Plus one little Pixar flick, Up, caused an uptick in anything mentioning Fentons Creamery and the Merritt Bakery’s Hamburger Cake – and we expect that to continue forever.

Fingers Crossed To Re-Open Bay Bridge

We do want our dowager, the Oakland Bay Bridge, to be treated and released from the ICU soon.  It’s important to make her Eastern Span healthy and safe, during those last few years in service.  It’s also hard to wait patiently for the bridge to re-open – especially if you are one of those unlucky Montclair-to-San Francisco commuters.

Keep Fingers Crossed

This morning, the travel times were atrocious.  We heard about three-hour commutes into San Francisco while cars crawled, at 10-15 mph, across the Richmond, Golden Gate and San Mateo bridges respectively.  No word on Dumbarton speeds, which may have been a bit better.

According to various traffic reports, BART handled a half-million passengers.  In the East Bay, this morning’s commuter count jumped nearly 50 percent, from 56 to 83 thousand passengers.  We also heard the Houston Rockets took a ferry boat to play the Warriors.

What’s happening now? Caltrans is working on a better fix to the I-Bar problem first discovered last Labor Day, including stronger welds and pieces that are tied together.  We sure hope the quick-fatigue problem will be resolved, so cumulative traffic and high winds won’t knock things down again!

We know the Bay Bridge will be closed again tomorrow.  Caltrans spokeman, Bart Ney, would not commit to any opening time – better safe than sorry.

November 2nd Update:  Finally, the Oakland Bay Bridge re-opened this morning.  After some re-designs, fixes, tests and more tests, Caltrans decided this effort would hold. Of course, our regular commuting patterns return tomorrow.

Bay Bridge Dowager Shows Her Age

We’ve been spellbound by the Oakland Bay Bridge construction this weekend, and the bridge is definitely showing her age.  During the full-bridge inspection of the Eastern Span, Caltrans engineers discovered an I-Bar crack, and are running at warp speed to fix this support structure problem.

Caltrans Morning Briefing

Mike Fornier, Caltrans principal construction engineer, explained “the crack we discovered is significant, it’s visual from the ground, and it’s about 100 feet in the air.”  There are eight I-Bars, so the other seven have taken up the load but still…this is a serious problem.

The 73-year-old piece has rusted out and must be fixed right now.  The crack is far away from the current bridge bypass and is thoroughly unrelated to this bypass construction.  Caltrans believes the crack developed during the past few months, but could have been related to original weaknesses in the metal.

This morning, we all learned the bridge would have been closed to fix this problem alone!  Of course, the engineering cognoscenti got to work immediately:  a design plan was developed; materials were ordered; and parts are now getting fabricated.  Engineers are awaiting deliveries, and a 10-man crew is ready to make the repairs.

Yes, Caltrans is committed to completing this as quickly as possible.  But we can’t help but think this sounds like one of those TV design shows with a deadline.  Will this get fixed by Tuesday morning at 5am?  In this case, fixing it matters more than making it pretty in time.

P.S.  The good news is the Oakland Bay Bridge bypass has been successful, and final joints are getting installed there.  “The 3600-ton segment was set down within a half-inch tolerance,” said Caltrans Spokesman Bart Ney, “right on the money.”

September 8th update: The bridge opened around 6:30am this morning, congrats to Caltrans.
October 27th update: The bridge closed again at 8:00pm, when part of the fix fell down (more here).