Bridge closing to prep for season 

While Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum practice for the upcoming baseball season, city workers are preparing one of the world’s longest single-leaf drawbridges for hordes of fans that will cross it by foot to reach AT&T Park.

The Francis “Lefty” O’Doul Bridge, one of three drawbridges in The City, will close from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays this month while the Department of Public Works performs maintenance.

Most of the planned work involves checking and repairing the roadway deck plates that were installed over the Bay-facing lane to allow pedestrians to cross Mission Creek Channel from Lot A, where fans park cars and disembark from buses, to
AT&T Park.

“If a plate were to become loose, it would become a road hazard,” department spokeswoman Christine Falvey said. “During baseball season, when the public walks on the roadway to get to and from the parking lots, it would be a tripping hazard.”

Crossing the bridge’s steel-grate surface would be a treacherous endeavor for heel-wearing fans if the road plates had not been installed.

The bridge was built in 1933 as the Third Street Bridge and renamed in 1990 in honor of the former player and manager of the San Francisco Seals, a minor-league baseball team.

Joseph Strauss, who designed the Golden Gate Bridge, was the project’s chief engineer.

The drawbridge was built to replace a 29-year-old, earthquake-damaged predecessor that was too short to accommodate many of the cargo ships that serviced the United Fruit Co., which operated warehouses along the creek’s shoreline.

Unlike most drawbridges, which are split in the middle and contain two leafs that rise when ships need to pass through, the Lefty O’Doul Bridge contains a single leaf with a hinge at the northern end.

To open the span, a bridge operator working in a short tower on the waterway’s southern bank remotely unlocks the leaf and uses a radio signal to turn gears that tip the finely balanced bridge onto its end.

City workers normally open the bridge within an hour of receiving a request from a recreational boater, emergency craft or houseboat operator, regardless of the time of day or day of week.

But on game days, when the bridge closes to traffic and opens to pedestrians, sailors must patiently wait while crowds of excited baseball fans move in droves across the striking steel structure.

Baseball fans will test the freshly maintained deck plates April 9, when the Giants play their home opener against the Atlanta Braves.

Drawbridge facts

77 years Age of bridge
61 Years since wooden roadway and streetcar tracks were replaced with steel grating
$552,590 Construction cost
$10 million
Cost of seismic retrofit project that ended in March 2000
135 feet Length
80.5 feet Width
2,550 tons Weight
2 200-horsepower engines in the bridge
60 seconds Time it takes one motor to open bridge
6 Television monitors used by bridge tenders

Source: Department of Public Works

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