28 October 2009

The Night the Bridge Fell Down

The drive through the toll plaza and up the initial incline of the Bay Bridge was rather easy yesterday, I noticed. Over the last couple of months, getting home in an hour-and-a-half had become common. Aggravating, but common. So when I experienced no delays at the toll plaza and a rather easy drive up the incline, I was stoked that I might make it home inside an hour. But as I approached the cantilever section of the bridge just east of Treasure Island yesterday, traffic was slowing down rather quickly, with cars in the left two lanes merging into the three lanes on the right. Obviously an accident had just occurred. While hoping it wasn't serious, I also found myself relieved that I didn't get stuck further back, as traffic was bound to become a huge mess within minutes.

As I approached the scene, it didn't look like anyone was hurt, but what I found was a whole different kind of fucked-up.

A piece of the bridge had come loose and landed smack-dab in the middle of traffic.

The piece hit three cars, damaging one pretty bad. I didn't see any injuries and news reports later confirmed that no one was hurt. None the less, I knew this was going to be a huge deal; and sure enough CalTrans announced a couple of hours later that the Bay Bridge would be closed indefinitely while they assess the situation and make repairs.

But this raises several questions:
Why is the fucking bridge falling down?

Even after repairs are complete, is the bridge really safe enough to handle the 270,000 cars that travel across it daily?

If the wind was the cause of this accident, what the hell can we expect if there is a substantial earthquake? Will the entire superstructure collapse into the San Francisco Bay?

And the biggest question of all, why in hell is it taking so long to finish the new eastern span of the bridge? I mean, really! 20 years planning, 7 years building it (so far), with 3 to 4 more years of construction expected before it opens?? BOTH spans of the original bridge took 3 years to build in the 1930s!.
Enough! The Governor, the state legislature, CalTrans officials, as well as every San Francisco Bay area driver need to demand, in no uncertain terms, that workers pull their thumbs from their collective asses and get to work on the new bridge. Double or triple the work force, work day and night and weekends and holidays, and get this thing finished by the end of next year.

The state was lucky. No one was hurt last night. But until the new span is complete and open to traffic, the risk of total bridge collapse (and the countless deaths that would result) increases with each passing day.