Sweeping gracefully from Yerba Buena Island to its touchdown in West Oakland, the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is nearing completion alongside the rugged existing portion. We took a tour of the often celebrated, often maligned infrastructure project, and discovered there is more to it than a tower and some broken bolts. After meeting with Andrew Gordon, Bay Bridge spokesman and our tour guide, he drove us onto the new bridge from Oakland. One of the first things Andrew pointed out was a small figurine resting on the side of the current bridge. We glanced up and saw a troll located at the exact spot where the old span collapsed during the 1989 earthquake, and was subsequently repaired. The troll, Andrew explained, was welded in place to protect the bridge from any future damage. "It's worked so far," he said.
Our attention was then turned to the installation of platforms under the skyway portion of the bridge. These were placed to encourage nesting for a bird species known as Cormorants, which now currently nest in the nooks and crannies of the existing bridge. Having a smooth finish along nearly all sides, the new bridge would not allow nesting if not for the new "Cormorant Condos," complete with decoy birds and a speaker system emitting bird calls.
As we continued along the bridge on foot to the far end Andrew pointed out the bike path that will open soon after the bridge. The catch: the path is only half complete and will stay that way until at least 2015, forcing riders and walkers to simply turn around and head back. This is due to how close the new bridge actually is to the existing; so close you can touch it. The bike path to Yerba Buena Island cannot be completed until the old bridge has been demolished.
More fun facts from the tour: all bridge lighting will be forward-facing LEDs to reduce glare and save costs due to bulb replacement, the divider between the eastbound and westbound lanes at the Oakland touchdown will be lined with palm trees, and a large park will be constructed along the Oakland waterfront called "Gateway Park," exact details of which are still being determined. And as far as those pesky bolts go, Andrew is "cautiously optimistic" and promised "we will know a schedule by the end of the month" about the bridge being ready for Labor Day weekend.
·Bay Bridge Bash: Footloose and Car-Free [Curbed SF]
·Bay Bridge Blues [Curbed SF]
·Planners Want a Big, Dramatic Park Where Bay Bridge Meets Oakland [Curbed SF]