We’ve crossed the old Bay Bridge for the last time.
On Saturday Rose and I drove into San Francisco for the last time on the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. We had dinner with old friends and family at a great little restaurant called Roxy’s Cafe on Mission Street.
When we return from Belize in mid-September the beautiful and long-awaited $6.4 billion replacement bridge will be open to traffic.
We won’t be crossing the old bridge Tuesday night on our way to San Francisco International Airport. We’ve decided to take the subway, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), from Walnut Creek directly into SFO.
The night after we leave for Belize the old bridge will be shut down completely until Sept. 3 as they connect the new span to the roadway. So glad we won’t be around for that. There are few ways to cross over the bay and none of them are convenient for people who want to get into San Francisco from the East Bay.
Crossing on Saturday filled us with mixed feelings. The old bridge is, well, old. It opened in 1936. It has two levels — the upper is westbound traffic, headed into San Francisco. The lower level is all eastbound traffic. There is one spot on the eastbound lanes where Rose, a San Francisco native, has to suppress feelings of panic and nausea. It has something to do with the design of the ceiling.
Neither of us can forget the images from the October 1989 earthquake in which whole sections of the bridge surface dropped out, taking vehicles and lives with them.
By contrast, the new bridge is an architectural delight — looking so light and airy as if it could float atop the famous San Francisco fog.
Unlike the western leg of the bridge, from Yerba Buena Island to the city, the new bridge comes with bicycle lanes. Crazy, I know, to essentially have bike lanes only halfway across a span. Perhaps someone will come up with a carrier business to transport bikes and riders from the island to San Francisco.
Anyway, my San Diego friend and former colleague Greg Gross promises to come up to Oakland when the bridge opens and we will cross it together on bikes. Greg is a New Orleans native who grew up in Oakland and is the author of a great blog “I’m Black and I Travel.”
I guess we’ll pedal over to Yerba Buena Island and back — since the bicycle path won’t connect to the island for some time — then look for a place to have lunch in Oakland. For now, cyclists are jokingly calling the bridge “the longest bike pier in the world.”
Another reason to anticipate the bridge opening is a sense of familial pride: My engineer son, Christopher, was involved in designing some aspects of the bridge. I think he had something to do with the cables.
Eventually the old span will come down and reveal the new one’s true unobstructed beauty. It promises to be as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge.
We’ll be sorry to miss all the bridge opening hoopla — ironically that is the sort of thing I helped plan for San Diego Association of Governments for a brief time. They loved holding ribbon cuttings for segments of highways, bridges, bike trails …. never a problem to get politicians to the opening of a transportation project!
By contrast, there are two small car ferries across rivers on our way to Corozal in Northern Belize. Both, I hear, are closed for repairs. I look at the humble ferries which move traffic across rivers in Belize and I wonder what that $6.4 billion spent on the Bay bridge could do for transportation in this country.
I guess, for now, they are non-bridges we’ll have to cross when we get there (and find an alternate route!)
The adventure starts Tuesday night!
- Bay Bridge bike path to Yerba Buena rolling along (sfgate.com)
- Lengthy, costly trail to Bay Bridge’s eastern span (sfgate.com)
- New east span of Bay Bridge set to open Sept. 3 (sfgate.com)