Political reporter Josh Richman, who reported the Supreme Court’s glorious decision that I no longer have to stay up nights worrying that the blog might erupt into a defamatory flame-fest, apologized that he had been hoarding several slabs of paper on the Bay Bridge.
Exhibit A was a California Research Bureau Timeline of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Seismic Retrofit: Milestones in Decision-Making, Financing and Construction, commissioned by state Assembly Joint Legislative Audit Committee Chairwoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland.
The first thing that struck me was that President Herbert Hoover appointed a commission to investigate the feasibility of building the existing Bay Bridge in 1929. The bridge opened in 1936 — seven years and one month later!
At the time, they had perfectly serviceable ferries plying the Bay. There was no concern that an existing structure would collapse in a big earthquake, as there was after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. I.e., there was no rush.
It’s been 17 years since a section of the Bay Bridge’s eastern span upper deck collapsed, killing one motorist. If the current schedule holds (and I don’t fault anyone for doubting it), the new eastern span will open nearly a quarter-century after the need presented itself.
But the timeline was a bit thin on the original bridge, and upon further research, I learned that the idea of bridging or tubing the Bay had been a serious subject of debate since the 1870s. It wasn’t until about 1926 — 10 years before opening — that a commission was established to connect the East Bay with San Francisco.
And the quick work Chief Engineer Charles Henry Purcell made of the bridge — three years and four months — came at a high cost. Twenty-four workers were killed during the project. So far, no deaths have been reported on the new eastern span’s skyway project. Not too many injury reports, either.
And now that I’ve got you warmed up, here’s another interesting fact: The original bridge toll was 65 cents.
Before you start bemoaning the $4 it’s gonna cost you come January (if you pay cash) or February (if you have FasTrak), consider this fact from the weighty document that was unearthed this morning: Converted into 2004 dollars, the round-trip toll for the bridge in 1936 was actually $17.86.
So pay your $4 and be thankful, but most of all, be patient.
Photo of 1935 Bay Bridge construction from content.cdlib.org.