Future of old Bay Bridge span remains up in the air 

Opening the new Bay Bridge was a race against the next major earthquake. Now, saving parts of the old east span is shaping up to be a race against demolition.

Pieces of the original span will start coming down in a few months, starting with the cantilever, and the complete dismantling has been estimated at three years. Meanwhile, talks that started a couple years ago of somehow salvaging parts the bridge are nowhere near concrete.

The nine-agency Gateway Park Working Group behind a planned park in Oakland will likely get first dibs, but the conceptual plan is under environmental review for certification in fall 2014, with the opening around 2018. Feasibility of incorporating the old bridge may depend on timelines aligning.

"Certainly, members of the working group have identified some pieces," said Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin. "And whether all of the items on that wish list can be fulfilled, at what cost and over what period of time just aren't clear yet."

What does seem almost certain is that a whole chunk of the old span won't be spared in its original form.

Starting from the east end, the trusses measure approximately 300 feet in length, then 500 feet, leading up to the cantilever, explained Peter Lee, principal transportation engineer with the Bay Area Toll Authority.

"It would be challenging to say the least, to do anything large," he said. "What we have planned to do in the current planning phase is attempt to salvage some of the pieces and utilize them in some fashion to be determined."

Saving an entire section – the original plan – also has been ruled "cost prohibitive," said transportation commission spokeswoman Karin Betts.

Another possibility far from realization is leaving the old span's entrance part in the east for Gateway Park. However, constructing the new span entails removing the old span to eliminate Bay fill, said Brad McCrea, director of regulatory affairs for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

"We wouldn't want the old teeth to take away the drama of the new span," he said. "So you have to balance that as well."

The park working group will hold its next public meeting in November and expects to have a clearer picture of the budget by then.

Simultaneously, David Grieshaber, a computer engineer and entrepreneur from Brisbane, said he has had little luck reaching Bay Bridge project officials and area tech companies that he hopes to get on board for his environmentally conscious Bay Bridge House vision. It too would use materials from the old bridge.

He pointed to two houses built from bridges in Spain and that there are multiple ways to remove lead paint and asbestos.

"Using a warehouse space or using a gas station or any other types of those projects have all had to deal with toxic substance abatement and mitigation," Grieshaber said. "And this would be no different."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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