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).

Goodbye To The Old Eastern Span

As planned and planned, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is closed for the next four days. The bridge that we took for our entire lives will be no more, as the detoured route will be in place starting Tuesday morning.

We captured a little history in the making, with the very last cars making their way on the old Eastern Span over to Yerba Buena Island.  Here are screenshots taken from 8pm through 9pm tonight.  You can see the last passenger cars, no traffic at all, construction vehicles arriving, and apparatus lighting up and settling in…below.

800 pm

815 pm

830 pm

900 pm

The weekend activities will be fascinating to behold, because of the sheer project scale:  the Oakland Bay Bridge undergoes its very own bypass surgery.  While the new section of bridge is a “temporary fix” for the next few years, this replacement takes a highly-orchestrated feat of engineering ingenuity.

Construction’s supposed to wrap up by the wee hours of Tuesday, and we are holding our collective breaths that the bypass succeeds.  Maybe the bridge karma is good right now, and this project will even finish up early like the smaller project two years ago.

In the meantime?  See what’s happening live at the Caltrans construction video, which works really well.  Also some of the local TV stations have nice video streams:  CBS5 video camKTVU2 video camABC7 video camKRON4 video cams.

For any Oakland-to-San Francisco commuters, please feel free to share your war stories tomorrow.  We feel for you.  The rest of us will avoid that other city for now, thank you.

Closer Views Of Bay Bridge Construction

The Bay Bridge’s seismic retrofit will be part of our lives for, oh, another five years or so.  However you just can’t see very much from the current bridge, ground or air.

How about the water?  Montclarion Nancy Lane snapped some terrific photos while day cruising around the Bay and Bay Bridge, and shared them with us.  Check them out!

Bridge Underway

“Bridge Underway” – This first image shows the new bridge working its way across the Bay, and there’s quite a distance until it reaches shore.  It still looks nice and sleek, as opposed the the train-trestle style of the old model.

Bridges Meet

“Bridges Meet” – This is a really cool perspective, since the old and new bridges seem to bear down and connect into infinity.  You have to like the optical illusion shots like this one.

Bridge Beauty

“Bridge Beauty” – Yes, the new bridge is quite sleek and looks like it will last into the 22nd century.   This eastern span opens to the sky, both coming and going – which we think will change perceptions of the East Bay.

Bridge Erector Set

“Bridge Erector Set” – The bridge and bypass construction is massive, and it’s good to zoom into this bite-sized section with plenty of cranes and gear.  We’re wondering where the workers are milling around, though.

Thanks again to Nancy for sharing these images of the Bridge under construction.  We would love to tour the Bay ourselves and see what progress has been made since she snapped them last fall – anyone with a boat and captain handy?

Bay Bridge Undergoes Bypass Surgery

Today we heard the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will finally undergo its long-awaited bypass surgery, and will temporarily close over Labor Day weekend this year.

This kind of super-orchestrated surgery should be a sight to behold.  The construction gods plan to remove a chunk of the existing bridge and insert another roadway section that connects to the curving bypass on Yerba Buena Island.  Check out the video here.

Bay Bridge Closure

While driving today, you can glance at the bypass construction and signage as you arrive westbound on Yerba Buena.  It looks like you will need to veer left pretty substantially, and the speed limit will be lower as well.

That’s all well and good, but how will the driving feel on the bypass?  We suggest looking at these eastbound and westbound video simulations for a quick preview.  After a few dozen trips on the real thing, you will probably adjust and commute back and forth with ease.

More info:   To learn about the entire Bay Bridge retrofit project, just visit this web site.  There are construction cams where you can see daily progress over the past months, as well as interactive plans which illustrate different bridge elements.  You can spend hours here!

September 9th update:   Check out final snapshots of the Eastern Span closure.  Also see the entire bypass surgery, through this video made from time-elapsed Caltrans snapshots.