Leaders seek to name new Benicia span after Miller

Several Bay Area legislators and transportation officials want to name the new Benicia span, set to open to traffic in late August or early September, after Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

It makes sense.

The existing Benicia bridge between Martinez and Benicia, built in 1962 and widened in 1991, is named after Miller’s father, the late state Sen. George Miller Jr.

Naming a state-owned bridge requires approval by the Legislature and Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is working on a bill.

The congressman, however, is reportedly not jumping up out of his seat over the idea.

Miller is known for his humble, down-to-earth personality and, unlike many veteran elected officials, his ego remains thoroughly under control.

If the moniker should become official, “Congressman Miller would be honored to have the new Benicia bridge bear his name, when the traffic is running smoothly, of course,” said Miller’s chief of staff, Danny Weiss.

But Miller, a lifelong union advocate, also favors “dedicating the bridge to all of the construction workers and engineers who built it and the local community that is paying for it,” Weiss said. “The bridge project has been a great team effort at all levels of government and will be a boost to area commuters.”

Of course, naming it the Miller bridge probably won’t change the ubiquitous radio traffic reports and newspaper references to the span as the “Benicia bridge.” The Contra Costa Times’ official stylebook mandates that we call it the “Benicia bridge.”

Contrary to the insistence of some folks in Martinez, the bridge’s full name is the “Benicia-Martinez Bridge,” ostensibly because the toll plaza is located on the Benicia side of the span. There’s even been some loose talk that the order of the cities ought to change after the new span opens because the new toll plaza is on the Martinez side.

But that naming protocol only seems to apply only to the Benicia and the Richmond-San Rafael span, where the toll plaza is on the Richmond shoreline. It also works on the Antioch bridge, mostly because there’s no town on the other shoreline.

The toll plaza on the San Mateo-Hayward bridge is in Hayward. And we all know, from those long minutes we sat looking at the Oakland skyline, where the Bay Bridge’s toll plaza is located — it’s full name is the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The Carquinez bridge, which links Crockett and Vallejo, bears neither name although the new span was named after the late famed bridgeworker Al Zampa.

The Dumbarton bridge, according to Wikipedia, is named after nearby Dumbarton Point, which was named after a town in Scotland. Who knew?

Lisa Vorderbrueggen