Although it officially closes at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, the CHP is warning drivers not to try to cross the Bay Bridge after 7 p.m. Shortly after that deadline, construction crews will spend the next five days finishing the $6.3 billion, 2.2-mile span linking Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. It only took 11 years.
The original bridge took three years to complete and was built at nearly a sixth of the cost in inflation-adjusted dollars, but officials promise the new bridge boasts better views, subtler curves and two shoulders for stalled cars in each direction. And, of course, it is supposed to be seismically safer.
Engineers questioned the span’s safety after steel bolts that are part of the bridge’s earthquake-proofing cracked in March. But temporary fixes have met with approval from federal transportation officials and tests underway on the remaining parts suggest that they won’t need replacing, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The fasteners may not need replacing, but the whole bridge may be too small in 30 years, according to traffic experts, who predict that the 190,000 new jobs San Francisco is expected to add in the coming decades will put a strain on both the bridge and BART.
For its part, the transit agency is hoping the bridge closure will present an opportunity to shine after a summer of strikes and threatened strikes. BART, which already shuttles 400,000 people under the bay each weekday, is optimistic it will be able to provide 24-hour service during the five days the bridge is closed.
Perhaps by 2043 some commuters will also be able to ride their bikes between the East Bay and San Francisco. For now, bicyclists anticipating a ride across the bridge to Treasure Island will have to settle for a journey that only goes part of the way. The entire three-lane bicycle and pedestrian portion won’t be complete until 2014 or 2015. Still, the views from the completed section will be stunning. You can reach the bicycle lanes from the Bay Trail in Emeryville or Burma Road in West Oakland, according to SFist. They'll be open from sunrise to sunset.
And what will become of the troll statue welded to the old bridge after Loma Prieta as a kind of good luck charm? Matier and Ross in the Chron say that the troll’s fate is unknown. According to the Contra Costa Times, there’s no uncertainty about the fate of the old bridge. It will be demolished over the course of three years at a cost of roughly $250 million. Engineers will follow the original construction plans in precise reverse order so as to not loosen the wrong bolt at the wrong time and send the bridge plunging into the Bay.
What memories do you have the old East Span? Leave a comment below.