With there still being no new spinning coaster to ride at Santa Cruz this weekend, the dog and I decided to walk on the new segment of the just opened east span of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge. Yep, despite delays, cost overruns (DCA re-bootX5), broken bolts, etc., the new span has stepped up to assume its function.
Original designs called for a straight forward viaduct to link Oakland and Yerba Buena Island (Treasure Island is actually just the adjacent, flat man made island constructed for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition), but that was ultimately changed to the single tower suspension bridge that was constructed. There were problems to be sure, some that really can’t be defended, but this is a very large object that will be there for over a century. If you have to look at something for a long time, you may not want it to be ugly.
To reach this graceful creation on foot or bike requires one to first traverse about 2 miles of what may best be described as Urban Grim. One can access the trail from a not all that great section of Oakland, but I chose to enter from Emeryville at the Entry to the IKEA store. I’m flippant by nature, but in all seriousness Oakland can be a dangerous place these days. Therefore I’ll mention that the path is heavily patrolled by cops on bikes, if for no other reason than speeding concerns when bikes are going down the Bridge’s incline. My own personal safety was never a concern, plus, at least on the 1st weekend, the trail is heavily used.
When we get those rare hot days in the Bay Area, the most comfortable spots are those near the Bay or Ocean. So the dog and I enjoyed clear blue skies and weather warm enough for shorts, but not so hot as to require bringing water (and there is none on the bridge, but Port-O-Sans were set up near the toll plaza). There are no trash cans, either, although benches are placed along the bridge. I suspect that many days walkers will find heavy fog and stiff winds, so we really lucked out in that respect.
So we set off in high spirits and after a while we emerged into the open after passing under the MacArthur Maze, a series of freeway overpasses that did provide some welcome shade on the return. There still wasn’t much to see that anyone would want to look at, but eventually we spotted the new 525’ tower starting to appear on the horizon.
What was rather surreal about this whole thing is that the old span is still standing, and will be for 3 years until being completely demolished. They’ve already begun churning up some of the old approach, and the ramp to the upper west bound lanes is already gone, so the original span just-stops.
The first part of the walking path’s incline is clearly temporary until the old stuff is out of the way for a permanent connection. It was a bit strange seeing that we were bolted to wood instead of steel, but we were soon on the new span properly.
The old gray ghost to our left looked even more ancient next to the gleaming new bridge. It was constantly there, and I made a point of taking it all in since the view I had would be much different when it’s gone. It was strange to see it empty, and even stranger to see the warning lights for the infamous “S Curve” blinking away.
The path is on the south side of the new span, and is actually attached to the roadway extending beyond the cables. There is one lane for walkers, and 2 for bikes, one in each direction. While the rail was about 5 feet high, I could see it being disconcerting for someone with extreme height issues, and the walking lane is on the edge so to speak. The dog seemed a bit uncomfortable next to it, but I think the fact that he saw it as a vertical cattle grate had a lot to do with that. When leaning on the rail one can’t help but hear the phrase “broken bolts” in one’s mind, but these are completely different bolts. Of the bolts that broke in construction, a CHP officer on the bridge said most engineers think the new span was still safer than the old even if every one of that type had snapped in construction, so I was never really worried that I was on the 21st century version of Galloping Gertie.
The curve of the bridges before entering the Yerba Buena island tunnel kept the tower out of sight for a while. In a Disney-esque reveal, it eventually came into view.
In another Disney-esque moment reminiscent of new Fantasyland, this all opened before it was completely finished. Therefore, the path abruptly ends before reaching the island; looks like some old bridge is currently in the way.
People tended to linger in this area, but eventually it was time to return to terra firma. Yeah, it’s kind of a downer thinking about the 2 miles of Industrial Disease we’d have to pass again, but we enjoyed the blue sky and cooling breeze off the Bay for as long as we could in the meantime.