Thursday, October 29, 2009

Clogged Artery

It was just a few weeks ago when I heard a structural engineer talking about how strong the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge will be once it is finished in 2013. He was also quick to point out that if there were a sizeable earthquake before the new span was finished that the existing structure would be vulnerable to failure. Forget the earthquake, wind is what they say caused a 5,000 pound beam and steel cables to fall onto the upper deck of the bridge during rush hour.
I have to admit, I was totally unaware that this had occurred. I was at home on Tuesday night just hanging out and nowhere near the internet or a radio. It wasn’t until after 10pm that I saw the story. Thankfully the bridge didn’t come crashing down like the one in Minnesota. I would have been in trouble if that happened and I missed it.
I went out the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge on Wednesday morning to check out the traffic impact and damage. Some 280,000 cars cross the span each day but the roads that I was on weren't that backed up. The radio reports told a different story about ths San Mateo and Golden Gate bridges. It sounded like a nightmare.

When I arrived to the bridge, the CHP had every road leading to the bridge blocked with cones. I tried unsuccessfully to get over to the toll plaza to make a photo of the empty toll booths. After meeting with the public information staff at the Caltrans office and waiting about 2 hours, me and two other photographers were escorted out to the toll plaza.
It was a surreal experience to see the dozens of lanes and toll booths completely empty with the exception of a single CHP car making sure nobody snuck onto the bridge. What was even more surreal was when I drove across the upper deck of the western span heading towards San Francisco from Treasure Island and I was the only car on the road. I felt like I was doing something wrong. It reminded me of being in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina when you would drive on the freeway for miles and never see a soul.
Since Caltrans wasn’t promising that they were going to let the press near the area where they were performing the emergency repairs, I decided to find someone with a boat to get me closer to the action. I called my buddy Noah Berger but he was already out on the water shooting for the Chronicle. So, I hung out at the small marina on Treasure Island and started looking around for someone who might take me out. After about an hour a guy named Chad came up the dock with his friends and I asked him if he knew anyone who would charter a boat for a quick trip. It was a nice day and Chad was not too interested in going back to work so he agreed to take me out for $50.
It was a fun trip, even though I don’t really like being on boats. It was also one of those six degrees of separation moments. Turns out that Chad used to date a former Chronicle reporter who I had just met a few weeks prior through Noah Berger. Go figure. Thanks to Chad I was able to get photos of the workers doing the emergency repair. It was a quick trip on a really nice day and I didn’t barf. Not a bad day.

1 comment:

C. Perry said...

It's always a good day when you can say, "and I didn't barf."