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7.29.2007 - 40 comments 

Before making the trip down the California coast to Southern California, I wanted to talk about one more famous landmark of the Bay area, that being the Bay Bridge. As you can tell from the shot I have shown here, I was actually on this bridge taking the shot, but the good and bad news (according to Mrs. LZ) was that I was actually driving the car while taking the shot. Even if, perhaps not a brilliant idea, I hope that it does give you the perspective of actually being on the bridge.

At its groundbreaking, President Herbert Hoover called it "the greatest bridge ever erected by the human race." When it opened in 1936, it was the largest and most expensive bridge in the world. Its length was 4.5 miles, not counting approaches. Its cost was $77 million Depression-era dollars.

It was built at the same time that another great crossing, the Golden Gate Bridge, (of my post a couple back) was rising in the west, a period that one architectural critic proclaimed was "the heroic age of American bridge-building." It boasted the biggest single-bore tunnel on the planet and a center anchorage bigger than any building in San Francisco at the time.

In 1956, it was named one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

And believe it or not, but in the summer of this year, it was scheduled to be demolished. On September 30, 2004, the office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that without sufficient funds authorized by the legislature that the bid for a replacement bridge must be allowed to expire.

It was at the time unclear if this would require a redesign to obtain a less expensive span. It might have been possible to quickly redesign the span using a more conventional cable stayed design, for which the construction methods and costs are well understood but the cost of the resultant delay was likely to far exceed any potential savings.

On December 10, 2004, the Governor's office announced that the signature span concept had been scrapped, with the completion of the bridge to be by the construction of the simple viaduct originally proposed. The design, having gone full
circle, remained expensive due to the continued high cost of materials.

Many of you may remember that earlier this year it was damaged when a tanker truck carrier fuel smashed into one of the abutments to the bridge was destroyed by the fire. That has already been repaired. In fact we couldn't even tell where the work had been done.

But in spite of this, it looks as though the end is coming for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which for more than 65 years has borne more traffic and superlatives than most bridges on Earth. The double-deck structure - a hybrid of two
suspension spans, a cantilever section and a truss bridge - remains the busiest bridge in the nation, carrying more than 270,000 vehicles a day.

The old workhorse span also carries a rich history. The story of its construction is a triumphant tale of the dreams, genius and skill of the men who envisioned and built the bridge in the face of daunting challenges. It is a story of American ingenuity at its best, of can-do perseverance and, almost inevitably, of tragedy. During construction two dozen bridge-men lost their lives.

"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend." ~ Albert Camus