New Bay Bridge on schedule to open later this year


The new Bay Bridge is to the old bridge as the space shuttle is to a horse and buggy. Along with seismic safety features innovated just for this bridge, there are aerodynamic features underneath the bridge designed to prevent dangerous vibrations in high winds.

Caltrans renderings show the wind vortex shutters that won't affect how cars feel the wind on the deck, but will keep the bridge structure from feeling the wind.

"The Bay can be very windy, and you do have a lot of cross currents," Caltrans spokesperson Bob Haus said. "Now what we did have was the advantage of modern design technology, and there are quite a few steps that we brought in in the design of this bridge taking the wind into account."

Caltrans photos show the scale model used in wind-tunnel testing.

"A part of the whole design process, was picking out whatever techniques or construction techniques that you would want to mitigate the wind," Haus said.

Caltrans says vehicles shouldn't be affected by high winds. But it's another story for people on the pedestrian and bike path which will run from Yerba Buena Island to the Emeryville Ikea, with rest stops along the way.

"It's going to be a real treat for them to be able to walk and ride a bicycle out onto a bridge" Haus said. "Now, not too many people know what it's like to actually walk out over a bridge like this. We're used to it, driving on it, but walking or riding a bicycle, that's a totally different experience."

Once the new bridge is open it won't be long before work begins on taking down the old one. On the environmentally sensitive Bay, that's a complicated job. You can't just blow it up.

When the old Carquinez Bridge was dismantled in 2006 it had to be cut apart, lowered onto barges, and floated away.

Between now and then, enjoy what will soon be a drive down memory lane.

The new bridge opens in a mere 213 days.

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