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violence pays off for Bay Bridge

By enelson
Monday, April 7th, 2008 at 11:56 pm in Bay Bridge, Bridges, Caltrans, driving, Freeways, Retrofitting, Safety.


I can’t bear to see the Golden Gate Bridge steal all the attention, what with Tibet backers unfurling banners in preparation for the Olympic Torch sputtering through town Wednesday, from the really exciting news about the Bay Bridge.

I heard today that on Friday there will be a ribbon-cutting on the West Approach in San Francisco. I already wrote about how the project would be finished seven months early. But my initial report said middle of this month, and now it looks like it’s going to be Saturday, April 12.

Like the conquest of Tibet (sorry, Bart, but I couldn’t resist), this major time-savings was accomplished with what Caltrans dubbed “brute force.”

Luckily for motorists, it only involved a short period of oppression in the form of the lower deck of the Bay Bridge shut down on Labor Day weekend, 2006.

The alternative would have been a slow, painful nine weekends of workers picking away at the fringes as traffic continued, albeit slowly, through the construction site.

The brute force involved beating up a mile of the main double-deck western approach structure with an army, if you will, of pneumatic hammers on hydraulic arms. The demolition contractor removed 10,000 cubic yards of concrete in three days.

This feat of demo derring-do led to the made-for-time-lapse replacement of the Bay Bridge western span Yerba Buena Island Viaduct a year later. The 2007 project, as most will remember, involved not just a difficult demolition but rolling a 3,700-ton new upper deck into place afterward.

The actual project won’t be completely finished until January 2009, but the last major traffic switch will take place this weekend. The rest is expected to go by relatively unnoticed. 

Some have suggested that Caltrans is lowering expectations in order to claim that it’s getting everything done early. I’m not an expert, but that seems improbable. Even if it were true, I think that’s better than saying you’re going to finish in 1995 and realizing you were off by a decade or two.

Photo of West Approach demolition from

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2 Responses to “violence pays off for Bay Bridge”

  1. Reedman Says:

    I believe the same company that did the ‘rolling slab’ installation over a weekend was the one that fixed the overpass in ‘The Maze’ in one month that got hit by the tanker truck, and beat the Caltrans estimates by such a large margin that their performance bonus was bigger than the bid payment. Can we hire these guys to extend BART to San Jose?

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Funny thing about that. The bonus was the same per day as it was on the same contractor’s (CC Myers) contract to fix the Santa Monica Freeway after the Northridge Earthquake. But that was a much bigger contract.

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