Friday, October 30, 2009

Falling Down

It's been 20 years since the Loma Prieta quake damaged a section of SF's Bay Bridge (it's the suspension bridge that is NOT the Golden Gate Bridge). After that, it was clear that the Bay Bridge, while sturdy, could not be trusted during a quake. 20 years later the state is still working on a fix; rather than retrofitting the Bridge, we are replacing one span entirely, and retrofitting the rest. Now, the repairs are already needing repairs: Bay Bridge Closed After Repair Falls Short
Three pieces of an emergency repair to the Bay Bridge's cantilever section made over Labor Day weekend snapped and crashed onto the upper deck of the span late Tuesday afternoon, striking three vehicles and forcing the indefinite closure of the region's busiest bridge.

Caltrans officials ordered the closure of the bridge in both directions shortly after 7 p.m. and said they could not estimate when the bridge would reopen.

The pieces that snapped were two high-strength steel rods and a cross beam from a steel saddle, said Tony Anziano, Caltrans toll bridge program manager. Those parts were installed over Labor Day weekend during an repair job that delayed the reopening of the bridge following scheduled work.


The area of the bridge where the pieces broke off was where, over Labor Day weekend, crews found a critical flaw on a steel structural beam, called an eyebar, helping to hold up the eastern span.

The crack was discovered during the planned four-day shutdown of the span to install the 288-foot S-turn, but was unrelated to that project.

Caltrans engineers said then that there were enough safeguards in the bridge design that the crack could not have led to the bridge collapsing.

The problem forced officials to push back the announced reopening of the span while emergency repairs were made. Working nearly 70 hours nonstop, crews wrapped a steel brace around the broken beam to redistribute tension away from the damaged area. That brace was then attached to another one set lower on the span using steel rods.

In the end, the bridge reopened in time for most of the morning commute the day after Labor Day.

All that hustling was for nothing, as the Bridge has now been closed for four days, resulting in epic traffic jams. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Bay Bridge, it is the only way to enter SF directly from Oakland and the rest of the East Bay. Losing the Bridge even for one morning can be incredibly disruptive. There is no greater horror for a San Franciscan than the dawning realization that you are in the East Bay and the Bay Bridge is closed!

Now, the easiest thing to do would be to find someone like, say, President Obama or the Governator, and just start in: "It happened on his watch!" "It's privatization's fault!" "Oh, who will care for Our Crumbling Infrastructure?" But, that's too easy. No, this was a team fault, and that team was all of those liberals and progressives who have dominated politics in California and the Bay Area for the last 20 years.

The original Bay Bridge was built in just 7 years - and that's from appropriation to design to construction to opening day. Not only that it was built during the Depression, contemporaneously with the Golden Gate Bridge. The men who conceived and built the bridge were not just building an engineering marvel and symbol of economic vitality. They were also facilitating commerce between San Francisco and Oakland.

Flash forward 70 years, and we can't even do a freakin' retrofit (let alone build a bridge) without turning it into a dumping ground for liberal politics. There were the endless environmental impact studies. (what exactly did you need to know that couldn't be referenced to 70+ years of having a bridge already there?) There were the mayors of Oakland and San Francisco who found the original design to be too pedestrian and delayed things for a couple years. There was the equal rights crowd that insisted on strict adherence to affirmative action in hiring and contracting with at least one local contractor supplying substandard concrete for his troubles. There were the bicycle activists - everything gets politicized around here - who demanded and got a bike lane on the bridge when there had never even been a pedestrian walkway. Etc. Is it any wonder that the actual construction/retrofit has been an afterthought?

Liberals love Bill Clinton's line about politics being the art of the possible. But, sometimes, you just need to go in and get the job done, and done right; not because it's "good for the environment" or "provides good union jobs," but because it is convenient and provides an economic good. This is simply beyond the ability of liberal politics, which is adept at spending money and placing blame, but unable to act as stewards of the public good.

No comments:

Post a Comment