Demolition to begin of Bay Bridge cantilever

An ambitious plan has been put in place to get demolition of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge back on track.
March 24, 2014 7:37:43 PM PDT
Behind schedule and over-budget again. That's the latest on the Bay Bridge project, but this time with the demolition of the old eastern span.

There's an ambitious plan afoot to get the demolition back on track and save money. You'll be able to see this plan in action as you're driving across the new bridge.

It's happened so many times, it's hardly a surprise.

"They have increased the cantilever demolition contract by $12.67 million," Bay Bridge spokesperson Andrew Gordon said.

The money is for more workers to get the delayed project back on schedule before an even worse delay.

Birds, including a pair of peregrine Falcons, may try to nest on the old bridge while they're tearing it down.

"Once they get in and they start nesting, it's very difficult and you need permits and approvals to take them out," Gordon said.

They're putting out netting to keep them away from what's bound to be a delicate operation.

"This cantilever, this cantilever is really something," Engineer Brian Maroney said.

Maroney has studied inside and out how the old bridge was built. He showed reporters how the cantilever works.

"I release this, it will fall down. It's not stable," Maroney said.

So the ends of the bridge are held down with massive force, making it strong.

But the same forces that let the bridge carry weight make it a delicate bow and arrow that workers have to carefully unwind.

"What you can't see right now is that the forces in the cantilever have already been redistributed," Cal Trans resident engineer Bill Howe said.

Hydraulic jacks are already in place, taking thousands of tons of pressure off the beams in the center.

Now, it's finally safe for workers to literally cut the bridge in half.

At first, you won't be able to see the gap unless you're on the water in a boat. But once it starts to grow, it will go quickly.

"In a month, you guys are gonna come out here and this is what you're gonna see. There's gonna be a couple of panels completely gone," Maroney said.

The extra money means they'll take apart both sides at once, hoping to save money by finishing before the birds nest.

And while working on a bridge with a gaping hole in it sounds risky. "We know it's been done before, 80 years ago," Maroney said.


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