Caltrans says Bay Bridge demolition still on schedule

Friday, September 26, 2014
Caltrans says Bay Bridge demolition still on schedule
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The demolition of the Bay Bridge is being done piece by piece in the opposite order of how it was built.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The demolition of the 78-year-old original eastern span of the Bay Bridge is proceeding on schedule in a methodical, piece-by-piece manner, a Caltrans spokeswoman said Thursday.

During a media tour of the old eastern span Thursday, which went out of service when the new eastern span opened up a year ago, Caltrans spokeswoman Leah Robinson-Leach said the dismantling of the old section is taking place in the reverse order from which it was built.

Caltrans engineer Bill Howe has been tasked to take apart the bridge.

"This is a great bridge, a great bridge. It's bittersweet to take it down," Howe said. "The big surprise to me is how well the behavior of the bridge has been predicted as it has been demolished."

PHOTOS: Workers demolish Bay Bridge piece by piece

The Bay Bridge tells its story in the details, from rivets with countless layers of paint, to scrape marks from collisions and slowdowns long forgotten.

The first phase of the project was to cut the suspended span of the cantilever truss at its center in order to begin removing it, Robinson-Leach said.

There is now an 800-foot gap in the middle of the cantilever span, which is visible to drivers on the new eastern span.

Robinson-Leach said demolition has also begun on the temporary detour near Yerba Buena Island known as the S-curve.

The second phase will involve removing the five truss spans and the truss causeway and the third and final phase calls for removing the underwater foundations for the old span, she said.

The demolition work began last year and isn't scheduled to be completed until 2018, Robinson-Leach said.

One of the challenges for workers is keeping the old span stable while it is demolished. One way to accomplish that is by installing temporary support trusses, she said.

There is a small, but not insignificant issue of birds that could delay the project. Seagulls and cormorants are still living on the bridge and officials need them to to move to the new bridge.

"The challenge is not the bird presence. It's that they will nest," said Caltrans spokesperson Leah Robinson-Leach.

Workers have tried to deter the cormorants and attract them to the new bridge by installing netting and spikes on the old span but the effort "has not been as successful as we had hoped," she said.

State and Federal wildlife guidelines protect the nesting birds. "You can't tell a bird not to nest, particularity in a natural feeding environment," Robinson-Leach said. "It's about attracting them to the new bridge."

The cost of the bird program is unknown as of now.

Bay City News contributed to this report