Monday, May 12, 2014
How do you take down a 77-year old bridge without using explosives? The same way it was built -- only this time, in reverse order.
Friday, November 15, 2013
The old eastern span of the Bay Bridge stands empty, its job done. Now it’s time for it to come down. And everyone wants to know: will the California Department of Transportation blow it up?
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
In 1996, the California Department of Transportation announced the state would spend seven years and just over $1 billion to replace the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. But the bridge that opened this week costs several times that amount -- and took ten years longer than originally projected. So...what happened?
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened last night, about five hours ahead of schedule. That is, if you don't count the extra decade it took to get the bridge built.
Friday, August 30, 2013
By Steven Short : KALW
The new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge opens on Tuesday. It is so long overdue and mired in engineering mishaps that all public ceremonies marking the occasion have been postponed, if not outright canceled. That's a stark contrast to the mood when the original San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened on November 12, 1936.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
At 8 p.m. last night, the last car drove across the original eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. If everything goes according to schedule, the new, blinding white span will open to the public on Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. Pacific Time.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
The workers who built the signature suspension span of the Bay Bridge aren’t your average construction worker. They are ironworkers: highly skilled tradesmen who build the massive metal structures that dot city skylines.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
The new San Francisco Bay Bridge will open the day after Labor Day. After postponing the opening indefinitely in July, the bridge’s oversight committee voted to restore the original date at a meeting on Thursday. The cracked bolts in the new bridge are apparently better than the totally unsafe old bridge, which wouldn't survive a minor earthquake.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Monday, July 08, 2013
The Bay Bridge opening has been delayed until at least December, the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee announced Monday. The brand-new eastern span of the bridge, which connects Oakland to San Francisco, was supposed to open this Labor Day. Back in March, bolts that hold together a key seismic structure snapped, throwing the opening date into question.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
California officials say they have a plan to stabilize bolts that failed earlier this year on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
May 8th is a big day for the new span of the Bay Bridge. That’s when the San Francisco travelers will learn get answers to two big questions: what the Bay Area Toll Authority is going to do about the broken bolts fiasco, and whether the bridge is still on track for a Labor Day opening.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
(Cy Musiker - San Francisco, KQED) The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge is having its moment.
The new eastern span opens in the fall. And on March 5, artist Leo Villareal will unveil the Bay Lights, a massive light sculpture he's designed for the suspension section connecting Treasure Island to San Francisco.
Working with CalTrans crews, Villareal has hung 25,000 LED lights on the cables on the north side of the bridge.
The project will cost about $8 million, all of it raised by private donations. And Villareal said it will pay off by attracting $97 million in economic activity to San Francisco.
"Really?" I asked. "People are going to fly here to see it?"
"Yes," he said. "Public art is a powerful magnet. Many people are drawn to this."
We were sitting on the Embarcadero, just north of the Bay Bridge. Bells were sounding behind us in the clock tower of the Ferry Building. But Villareal was focused on the sweeping view he had to the south, of the suspension span and the patterns forming in the lights he’s hung.
"For me its all about discovery," he said. "Figuring out what it can do. I don’t know in advance. There’s a lot of chance and randomness in my process, so I’m here to make discoveries."
In his lap Villareal held a remote desktop connected to a computer in the bridge's central anchorage, with which he was orchestrating the lights as he practiced for the show's opening night.
"This is a program that we wrote," he said. "It's called Particle Universe. And we can change their mass, the velocity, gravity. All these things we find in nature. As an artist, I use all these equations and rules as material, really just play with them. I'm just sitting here waiting for something exciting or compelling to happen. When it does I capture that moment, and that becomes part of the mix."
As Villareal spoke, he made the lights seem to fall from the tops of the cables to the bottom. Then a shadow moved across the lights from Treasure Island toward the city, and back again, and then the lights rippled, as though reflecting the waves on the bay below.
"You would think you wouldn't be able to improvise with software," said Villareal. "But I've found ways on involving chance and working intuitively with software. You can spend more time with this that a sign in Las Vegas or Time Square that does one thing for one minute and then repeats over and over again. The other thing that's important for viewers is that they don't feel anxiety that they missed something. At any point that you're ready to jump in, there it is."
I asked Villareal now that he’s spent so much time with the Bay Bridge, the commuter workhorse of the Bay Area, what he makes of its personality. It’s a question he struggled to answer.
"You don’t want to mess with it," he said. "You know I feel a lot of respect for it. I want to add something and augment what's here. These are the icons of the Bay Area, the bridges. I think there's also an honesty and integrity to the piece. That's very similar to what the bridge is like. I've done a couple of cable walks and gone to the top of the bridge and was amazed at how efficient it all is."
Villareal is a regular at the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada, and he says he wants people to gather on the Embarcadero to see the lights, the same way people gather around campfires out on the desert.
It seemed to be working that night as passersby gathered nearby, pointing up to the bridge.
"It looks kind of like some kind of star constellation to me," said Amy Gallie, one of the onlookers. "It becomes ethereal instead of something which is so prosaic that we're used to looking at."
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
By Julie Caine
After eleven years of construction, the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span is set to open to traffic this fall.
Meanwhile, the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO), part of University of California-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, is soliciting stories from people who were there when the original Bay Bridge opened in 1936.
Sam Redman, a ROHO historian, recorded a number of interviews with folks who remember that time. He shared excerpts with KALW’s Steven Short.
"The clips that I’m sharing today are from people who happened to be in the Bay Area at the time," said Redman, "people who were working on the bridge—Rosie the Riveters or tow truck drivers and engineers and other people that worked on the Bay Bridge."
Redman played a few soundbites from the World War II generation who actually watched the bridge as it was actually constructed.
Like Ralph Anderson.
“It was going to be wonderful. I didn’t realize that the ferries wouldn’t be there anymore. But to go across the bridge on the Key System trains, the whole lower deck was trucks and trains. And that worked out great, I thought that was a good system. And to go across the bridge for a quarter, I was impressed and pretty soon the bridge was going to be paid for and you wouldn’t have to pay anything.”
(Currently tolls on the Bay Bridge are between $4 and $6 dollars, depending on the time of day).
Yes, you read that right: the lower deck of the Bay Bridge, as it was initially constructed, carried rail. The Key System operated from 1938 to 1958.
"One of the interesting thing about this series," said Redman, "is learning about some of the failed proposals that we’ve had for bridges, including a span that would have run similar to the Bay Bridge from Alameda, south of the current Bay Bridge into San Francisco to alleviate some of that traffic congestion that was building up early on on the Bay Bridge. It exceeded all traffic projections almost right away."
Redman said one of the things that amazed him while conducting the Bay Bridge's oral history project is "the way people have worked have changed on the bridge since time it actually started. Like Bay Bridge painters, for example. New rules and regulations mean that for their actual work it takes longer to paint the Bay Bridge, but that’s to actually keep the Bay that’s beneath them healthy. Before, the paint would just go directly into the Bay."
Here's a remembrance from Berkeley resident Norma Grey:
“In 1936, they just summarily announced that we were going to California. And it was precisely because my dad could not find a job. And so he borrowed $100 from his brother, put his three little girls and what possessions he could put in a Model T Ford and drove across the country. He stopped in Berkeley. Their plan was San Francisco, but it cost 25 cents to go across the new Bay Bridge.”
"Twenty-five cents would have been enough to buy a meal for the evening for the family," said Redman. "I think that puts in context how hard times really were. And it gives us a little insight into the folks who worked on the Bay Bridge. Job openings at the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge would have looked pretty appealing at that time, even though they were pretty dangerous jobs."
Redman added that the working conditions at the time helped keep construction costs down -- compared to today.
You can see differences in terms of safety, in terms of pay, in terms of all sorts of workplace conditions changes. In the course of building new bridges, people will look at the old Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge and say, gee, these were completed on budget and on time. But it’s because of a remarkable range of changes in labor that are actually good changes in many respects.
Monday, December 10, 2012
(Cy Musiker -- San Francisco, KQED) It will be sparkly. Lighting technicians and workers are closing a lane on San Francisco's iconic Bay Bridge each evening this week to install 25,000 LEDs on the cables on the north side of the bridge's suspension span.
The work is part of an art project to honor the bridge's 75th anniversary.
"What happens is crews go up in the middle of the night and hang down the side of the bridge and attach up to 500 LEDs each evening, per shift," says Ben Davis, chairman of Illuminate the Arts, the group that's installing the lights. According to the group's website, "the Bay Lights is the world’s largest light sculpture, 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high...[it will be] a monumental tour de force seven times the scale of the Eiffel Tower’s 100th Anniversary lighting."
"And the progress is just going great," says Davis. "We're over 10 percent complete, and we're completely on track for a grand lighting ceremony." That ceremony is scheduled for March 5, 2013.
Davis has raised $5.7 million dollars so far for the $8 million dollar project.
The lighting design is by light artist Leo Villareal, famous for his work at Burning Man and in museums around the world. Davis says the project will bring attention to a bridge often overlooked for its more glamorous partner.
"I just about have an orgasm when I ride my bike across the Golden Gate Bridge." Davis said, "But I, like a lot of people here, have a really deeper love almost for the Bay Bridge, and its great to see this hard-working and really elegant bridge shine again in our consciousness."
The lighting project will be up for at least two years. It's not in time for this year's 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge. But it will be finished in time for next year's America's Cup, and the completion of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
Read more over at KQED.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
By Julie Caine
In the East Bay, AC Transit riders dealt with fewer bus lines and increased fares. San Francisco MUNI riders faced changing routes as well. All in all, 2011 meant more cost, and oftentimes more waiting for drivers and riders. And it might not get better this year. Here's a transcript of a Q&A we're airing today about 2012 transportation funding issues in the Bay Area.
HOST: Julie, what’s changed for people who ride public transit in the Bay Area?
JULIE: The biggest change people here will notice are cuts to the commuter benefit--that’s a stimulus-funded public transportation benefit that recently expired. Basically, this was a program that reimbursed workers for transportation costs, tax-free, and that includes both parking and public transit. Last year, the government subsidized both equally--$230 a year. This year, the benefit for parking is going up, but the public transit one has dropped by almost half, down to $125.
HOST: How will that impact workers in the Bay Area?
JULIE: Well, I met BART commuter Julio Alfaro on his way to work, and asked him how the cut in the public transit benefit would affect him.
ALFARO: It would hurt a lot. Cutting the subsidy in half with the fact that they're raising rates as well, just you know, takes more money out of your pocket. And where does that money come from? You take it from your entertainment portion, or your food portion, or your housing portion. It's got to come from somewhere.
HOST: Julie, he’s talking about how to make up the extra money. Is this a problem for other people?
JULIE: Alfaro’s right that the money does have to come from somewhere. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that most people already spend more on transportation costs than on anything else except for housing.
HOST: And what about the difference between subsidies for parking and transit? What are the implications for that?
JULIE: When you subsidize parking, it means more people drive and public transit use goes down. Right now in the Bay Area, those numbers are pretty even--about a third of commuters get to work by car, and another third use public transit. But the changes to the commuter benefit might really affect that balance. Think about it: If you get more money from your employer to park and less money to take the bus, then you might be tempted to drive more. And that could mean more congestion on the roads, and more emissions in the air. The commuter I spoke with, Julio Alfaro, had something to say about that, too.
ALFARO: If they're trying to get people to commute more on public transportation, and less pollution and everything, it's ridiculous that they would encourage people by upping the parking and lowering the public transportation subsidies. It makes no sense. but we are talking about the Federal government, and they don't always make a whole lot of sense.
HOST: Now Julie, you mentioned BART, but I’d imagine this affects other local transit systems as well.
JULIE: Absolutely, especially agencies like MUNI and AC Transit. MUNI’S looking at an almost $80 million dollar budget gap in the next two years. And in general, San Francisco’s trying hard to get people to take transit. So this could make it more difficult.
HOST: So that’s a national issue. What about state cuts?
JULIE:Last month, Governor Jerry Brown announced a new round of state budget cuts, called “trigger” cuts because they were triggered by a lack of revenue. Those are also now in effect. The biggie for transportation was that school bus funding was completely gutted -- close to $250 million in cuts. School advocates say that will affect close to a million low-income and special needs students statewide. They’ll have a much harder time getting to school. In the Bay Area, Oakland Unified School District is losing $5 million dollars in state transportation funding. They’re going to use their reserve fund to keep from cutting services. San Francisco’s already been hit hard by state budget cuts; they’re losing about a quarter of their school bus service.
HOST: So how will those students get to school?
JULIE: Well, Federal law says that school districts have to provide transportation for special needs students, so many districts will be dipping into their reserves to do that. But for general ed students, they’re going to have to get to school however they can. In a press conference, Governor Brown said these choices are hard, but necessary.
JERRY BROWN: You can't provide money you don't have. You either cut or you tax--there is no third way. There's no alternative. As governor of California, I'm sensitive to what these cuts do to real people, but I'm also aware that over time, California does have to balance its budget, and exercise fiscal discipline.
HOST: Julie, before we let you go, give us an update on high speed rail.
JULIE: Yes, that’s the other big news. A peer review panel appointed by the state just issued a very critical report, basically recommending that the Legislature not borrow the money it needs to start building this year. They said that the biggest problem with the plan is that the Rail Authority hasn’t been able to secure any additional money for the project, aside from what’s already been approved.
HOST: How much is that?
JULIE: There’s the $9 billion voter-approved bond, and then $3.3 billion in federal grants. The project’s supposed to cost $100 billion. Given that there’s no other money, the panel said that the plan to build the train isn’t financially feasible. Needless to say, the Rail Authority disagrees.
HOST: So what happens now?
JULIE: Republican state legislators are considering pushing legislation to block spending the bond. Governor Brown says he still says he still supports the project, so we’ll see what happens with the Republican bill. The Legislature reconvenes today.
TN MOVING STORIES: California Bullet Train Hits Borrowing Bump, Boston Faces Steep Fare Hikes, and the Rise of the Gondolas
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
By Kate Hinds
Top stories on TN:
Romney: I’d Stop Funding Amtrak, and Have Big Bird With Ads (Link)
Chicago, New York to Make Snow Plow Locations Live During Storms (Link)
Coach Bus Files Chapter 11 (Link)
And: have you seen "New York’s Lost Subways" yet? What are you waiting for!
Expert panel: California's high-speed rail plan isn't financially feasible, and the state must delay borrowing billions for it. (Los Angeles Times)
Boston would raise subway fares by up to 70 cents and dramatically cull bus routes, eliminate ferries, and end weekend commuter rail trains under a plan unveiled Tuesday to help erase a projected $161 million deficit. (Boston Globe)
Honolulu's $5.3 billion commuter rail line will break ground in March -- unless a judge halts it. (New York Times)
The Transport Politic has a map of transit projects underway in 2012.
Pay the toll, or spend the extra time? Two reporters test-drive whether it makes sense to pay the new tolls on the NJ Turnpike -- or spend more time on free side roads. (New York Times)
Two retirees are suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for canceling their lifetime free passes over its bi-state bridges and tunnels. (Star-Ledger)
In San Francisco nearly 2 in 3 trips in the city are made by car -- but transportation officials want to get the number to 1 in 2 trips before the decade is over. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Chicago's street parking rates are increasing. (WBEZ)
Gondolas: the transit wave of the future? (Toronto Star)
The 2012 presidential elections will decide the fate of transit projects nationwide. (City Limits)
Thanks for paying taxes, San Francisco! Learn the story behind the billboard on the Bay Bridge. (SFist)
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
By Kate Hinds
New York is far from the only place where transportation can be turned into gift-giving gold. Looking for a locally harvested MUNI transfer button? A belt made out of bicycle tires? A Decolonized Area Rapid Transit t-shirt? Look no further than the Bay Area.
It's where you can also purchase t-shirts inspired by the BART map....
...and note cards of the Bay Bridge:
Go ahead and cross that bridge into San Francisco, where a Sunset District crafter sells pro-transit pins:
Monday, November 21, 2011
By Julie Caine
(San Francisco, CA -- KALW) Two employees at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) were fired last week for allegedly falsifying test results on various projects around the state, and neglecting proper testing procedures of the new span on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The news came from an investigative report published November 13 in the Sacramento Bee. The two Caltrans employees – a technician and his supervisor – were fired that same day, even though Caltrans knew about the falsified test results back in 2008.
Caltrans acting director Malcolm Dougherty said in a press conference that the problems stemmed from an isolated incident with one employee, and that all the structures in question are safe. According to Tony Anziano, the toll bridge program manager for Caltrans, the agency has no concerns about the safety or quality of construction of the new span.
“There has been absolutely no evidence of any kind of falsification of any testing data on the Bay Bridge project,” said Anziano. “We remain extremely confident about the safety of the tower foundation piles for the Bay Bridge.”
The California Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, which includes Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission, and the Bay Area Toll Authority, has called for a review by the state Seismic Safety Peer Review Panel of all the aspects of the bridge that were tested by the fired technician. Actual re-testing of the bridge foundation, however, is “virtually impossible” according to the Bee’s investigation.
Charles Piller is the Sacramento Bee reporter who led the investigation. KALW’s Julie Caine called him up to talk about his findings.
CHARLES PILLER: What happened was that for a period of years there were irregularities in the branch of Caltrans that passed the foundations for freeway structures. These are the deep concrete and steel foundations for bridges, overpasses, and elevated roadways, among other freeway structures.
The individual who we wrote about in the story, Duane Wiles, who was a technician who was involved in testing some of these structures, dozens of them across the state, and Caltrans knew, in 2008, that he had falsified some of these structures. The story unfolds from the detection of falsification of data on a single structure —a freeway overpass in Riverside, (Southern California). What came out of that was a very cursory, short and incomplete examination of Wiles' record of testing.
Soon after, it was found that he had falsified at least two other structures. The implications of falsified tests of course, are at the very least, uncertainty about the public safety of the structures in question. Because no through investigation has been done on the extent of fabricated data by Duane Wiles, its difficult to say how many structures might be involved, that’s a first step. Caltrans has repeatedly said that they have made a thorough investigation of Duane Wiles work and have certified the structures he worked on as safe for the traveling public. This is contradicted directly by their own documents that I am in possession of. Contradicted in a multitude of ways.
JULIE CAINE: Can you talk about implications as they relate to the new structure of the Bay Bridge?
PILLER: Yes. We do not have evidence that data was falsified on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. We do have evidence that Duayne Wiles used improper testing techniques, associated with all of his work on that bridge and all of his work actually, for nearly every structure he tested for a period of two years.
The implications of that improper testing technique are somewhat uncertain. It depends on other factors. Caltrans has dismissed concerns about improper technique as irrelevant. Unfortunately their own test method, the test method that they require their engineers and their technicians to use, requires certain elements of technique that Duane Wiles routinely violated. So, there’s a degree of uncertainty about the testing process itself.
Now, does this mean that the bridge is vulnerable to collapsing or to serious damage during an earthquake? No one is suggesting that. All the engineers I’ve talked with are suggesting is that this was not well-thought through. The testing was not well-thought through, the design of these piles contradicts the standard testing methods that would normally be used for these structures and consequently, it has raised questions about whether a team of qualified experts should get a close look at these structures and try to determine whether there’s anything in there that can help understand whether there’s vulnerabilities that were previously undetected.
CAINE: And is that possible to do?
PILLER: What can be done is a reassessment based on new assumptions. Assumptions that certain mistakes were made. Certain flaws are present that are perhaps undetectable but still present. And a calculation can be made about the stability of the structure even under a worse case scenario of substantially flawed foundations that have not been detected as of yet. And it’s a calculation that I think Caltrans has already said it would get a look at but they’re being a little bit ambiguous about their comments about this. But they claim that they’re going to put out the test findings to peer review to try to examine whether there’s any cause for concern.
CAINE: Would you drive across the new Bay Bridge?
PILLER: I live in Oakland and this story is very important to me and I have to say that it was very disheartening for me to even have to write it because of the public safety and economic implications for California. I think for me, I would certainly like to see a through evaluation of the bridge by experts and some bridge consultants and experts that I’ve spoken with have suggested that.
Fortunately for all of us, no one is going to be driving across that bridge until 2013 when it's completed. That’s plenty of time to do the kind of re-evaluation that’s been proposed and, I’m very hopeful that if that re-evaluation shows favorable information the public will be able to be reassured and myself among them.