On July 9, 1933, the California Department of Public Works broke ground on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Crowds gathered on Yerba Buena Island to celebrate the world’s longest steel structure.
The new bridge opened in 1936, as the largest and most expensive bridge of its time at 77 million dollars. Before this, ferries carried people across the Bay’s choppy waters. Now the bridge became the crucial link between the communities on each side of the bay.
Building the structure was a huge enterprise. Some of the challenges to the construction were; the varying soils and water depths, the inaccessibility to bedrock, and the unique design challenges inherent in developing a bridge to span eight miles across the Bay. In the early 1930’s, engineers underestimated the threat of earthquakes when building the bridge.
On October 17, 1989, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Bay Area. A section on the upper deck failed and crashed into the lower deck, also causing the lower deck to fail. The suspension bridge on the West Span is inherently more flexible and was able to withstand the earthquake.
The bridge was the lifeline to the East Bay and had to be closed for a month-long repair. It was decided that a long-term solution, which resulted in the retrofit of the West Span and replacement of the East Span, had to be found. For several years, designs were studied and budgets were compared. The estimated cost for the new Bay Bridge (East Span) was $6.416 billion. Eventually, the new section on the east side was started.
During the repairs the bridge acquired a good luck troll. A group of ironworkers affixed the 18-inch sculpture without knowledge or consent from Caltrans, and a maintenance worker later discovered it. With the new bridge, comes a new troll. Trolls originated over 1000 years ago in Scandinavia. The new troll will be installed in a secret place on the underside of the bridge.
An exciting new feature to the bridge is the Bay Bridge bike and pedestrian path. Until the pathway is complete, users will need to turnaround to head back to Oakland. Once completed, the pathway will extend the 2.2 miles between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island.
On Sunday at 7:00 pm the new bridge was opened to the delight of the commuters.