Feeling a Little Loma

Reading all those comments about CalTrans on sfgate.com.   People definitely feel strongly about that Bridge and CalTrans.  When things go right, everyone applauds CalTrans…and, at the slightest of slip-ups, they’re called out as “bums”.   The 70-year-old bridge was in severe need of repair, yet one that I seem to rarely think about being unsafe.  Now, we’re all set with the new detour to begin the retrofit of the new East side section to this iconic and important artery in the Bay Area.

The Bridge had a planned closure this weekend, and by all accounts, CalTrans and the CC Myers’ crew were ready to address a near engineering marvel to move out and replace 300 feet of road way, 200 feet high off the water.   That part went fine.  What we weren’t ready for was an extended closure due to an issue found during the new road work.   It was the bridge inspection that led to the extended, and now, unexpected, unscheduled closure.

An upper strut of the Bridge cracked and they needed 1 more day to fix.  With the Tuesday commute pending, we all went scrambling, but when the rubber met the road, literally, CalTrans ended up completing the repairs early Tuesday morning, which led to a 2 hour delay and avoided a whole extra (24 hour) delay.   Quite stunning change of course in last 24 hours.

It’s always a little strange when the Bay Bridge closes.  It happened 2 years ago to fix the West side of the bridge, and ended up opening up about 12 hours ahead of schedule.   But, what really occupies me is what happened 20 years ago.

Loma Prieta.   It’s one of the few times when I remember to a tee what happened after the quake hit and the

number of people who shared in the experience within a short period.

I had just arrived home from my afternoon history class at UC Davis.  I only had 2 quarters left at school.  I walked into my apartment on F Street, put my books down, and felt a strong, rolling wave.  Perhaps just a little

lp - bay bridge_09

woozy after a long day at school.  No, it felt like an earthquake.   I turned on the radio and I ran to my study room.  Sure enough, a hanging plant was swaying to and fro.  From the radio “a large earthquake has hit the bay area, and centered in Palo Alto”, a 100 miles away.  My parents lived in Palo Alto.  I immediately called home.  I reached my mother instantly.  She said that everything is fine.  Her clock radio fell off a shelf, but the power was still on.  I learned later that the earthquake was actually centered in Hollister, but regardless, it was a miracle that I actually got thru that instant as almost every phone line got tied up as the Bay Area was reeling in damage.

I bolted out of my apartment on my bike to head up the street to my buddies house to watch the World Series.  It wasn’t just *any* World Series…it was the “Bay Bridge Series” between the Oakland A’s and the SF Giants.   I opened the door swiftly, “did anyone feel the earthquake?’

“Sure did,” everyone responded.   “And, no baseball today”.

“Really?”

earthquake22No way.  Candlestick had cracked in the upper section.   The upper deck of the bay bridge went thru the lower deck.   The Marina district was engulfed in flames and crushed homes, and the Cypress Structure in Oakland completely collapsed.

I stared at the TV.  Looking at the Bay Area and roads I had travelled uncountable times.   Stunned.   Helpless.   The Bay Area would never be the same again.

About 2 weeks later, I had tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Oakland, which would have been fine to get to, but we also decided to spend the day before in the city.  It must have taken 2.5 hours to get from Richmond to SF…complete crawl over the Richmond-San Rafael and Golden Gate Bridges.

Alas, the Bay bridge would be fixed within a few weeks in 1989.  A new section would be dropped in.  The Cypress Structure was removed, the Embarcadero high-rise was removed.   Many blocks of the Marina were re-built.

Now on Tues, Sept. 8 2009, the bridge has re-opened as the earthquake-proofing from 20 years ago continues, which I guess is certainly far better than unscheduled closures.  Albeit a pain, we seem to adapt and move on.  And, being prepared for at least 1 or 2 more closures to re-attach the new section.  Until next Labor Day…

The Bridge is cracked and they need 1 more day, meaning we’re now scrambling to address a commute no one planned for.   So, no we’re in lp - bay bridge_09unscheduled territory and I can only stop and reflect on what happened 20 years ago.
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