Caltrans finalizes plans for Bay Bridge old eastern span demolition

- Caltrans has sped up its plans to remove the remaining 13 pier supports that held up the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

Previous implosions of these giant piers have been so successful, Caltrans will blast several at a time, finishing a year ahead of the demolition schedule.

Their tops removed, only a few feet of the massive pilings remain above water. Every other weekend from September to November, two or three of these each time will be explosively demolished and their debris immediately barged away, leaving only the original Bay bottom.

The pressure wave, from about 30 pounds of explosives per pier, will be surrounded by a curtain of large bubbles. The bubbles will absorb almost all of the shock, to minimize disturbance to wildlife. 

"Quite frankly, if it's good for the environment, it does faster, and, quite frankly, everybody saves money. The taxpayer saves money," said Brian Maroney, Caltrans chief bridge engineer.

The savings: at least $10 million and half the days to finish the blasting.

Eight remaining piers are very likely to be used to create some form of a public observation deck; something that has been planned for many, many years and could be approved in just a few weeks.

"On the east side, there's a chance to have a walkway out from the land out to pier 19, that's over a thousand feet." said Maroney.

On the huge ramp and platform would be a whole new array of biking, hiking, sailing, recreational and dining opportunities looking out on the bridge. On the Yerba Buena side, a remaining pier could provide the same  opportunities in the shadow of the signature tower. The community will have an opportunity to weigh in on keeping some of the remaining piers for conversion to public use.

"The City would own, take ownership. Caltrans would build it and, the Bay Area Toll Authority would fund the maintenance operation just like they do the bridge and the bike trail," said Maroney. 

For less than an hour on those blast days, weekend traffic on the Bay Bridge will be halted in an abundance of safety.

It took seven years to design the bridge, another 12 years to build it for a 2013 opening, but still not quite finished.

Last week, in 2017, 28 years after Loma Prieta, the final detail work was finished on the new span; the same year demolition of the old one will be completed.

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