Bay Bridge: Last Day for the Most Unloved of all Spans

Categories: Local News
The bad old days...
Last night, a strange and nigh-unrepeatable event transpired. Your humble narrator found himself -- and his bicycle -- in Oakland at well past 11 p.m. And  yet, a platoon of volunteers materialized, competing to offer a ride back to the city.

This had less to do with the joys of ferrying a freeloader and his bike and more about the chance to cross the eastern span of the Bay Bridge one final time. For the first and last time, a ride across the Bay Bridge was an end in and of itself.

It was a move many drivers unencumbered by surplus passengers and bike grease seemed to be enjoying at that late hour, if enjoying is the right word. No one ever particularly enjoyed their trip over the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which will close forever tonight at 8 p.m

This overworked, underloved stretch had the misfortune of being a homely -- yet functional -- work of capital infrastructure in a region littered with glamorous ones. A lifetime of traversing it, however, has led to a Stockholm Syndrome-like sympathy with the structurally unsound bridge as it gives way to its structurally dubious, yet serenely beautiful, successor.

The eastern span was rarely appreciated. But it will be remembered. This bridge had stories to tell, if you knew how to listen.

See Also: Running For Your Life on the Bay Bridge During the 1989 Earthquake

The first thing you'd have to do was turn off the radio. Stop talking. Pay attention. You'll hear it. You'll feel it. Here it comes. Are you ready? Bump, bump.

That's it. Kinda underwhelming.

But, for those who lived through the Loma Prieta quake, this triggered an outsize reaction. Just before the trestle-like portion of the eastern span at the peak of the roadway's ascent, those two giveaway bumps revealed the 55-foot section of the bridge grafted back into place after the 1989 partial collapse.

Thumbnail image for Bay Bridge Collapse.jpg
Everyone has different memories of that day. There are still a decent number of people around here who recall getting out of their cars and sprinting like hell after a motorcyclist, driving the wrong way on the lower deck, succinctly noted the bridge was collapsing

Well, only 24 years later, eons late, billions over budget, and following myriad structural failures brought about by the span's 50-year out-of-date design, a remedy has been delivered.

The aforementioned new span is jaw-droppingly beautiful, meeting the aesthetic demands of area residents and ribbon-cutting leaders. Its structural soundness, however, is extraordinarily questionable.

Even stories about motorcyclists speeding the wrong direction and mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters running for their lives gain a touch of nostalgia over the years.

But they're ever so much nicer left in the past. 

My Voice Nation Help
Brenda Kahler
Brenda Kahler

I'd be less nostalgic if the new bridge wasn't shoddily made and broken before it even opens.

Kevin Kirby
Kevin Kirby

They could just remove the upper deck, leaving the rest as rentable space.

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