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All You Need Is Slab ...

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Name:Michael Patrick
Location:San Jose, California, United States

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Sunday, September 5


All You Need Is Slab

(Prescript: If the below links seem old, you're observant!)

"If the Golden Gate Bridge were to fall, would Schwarzenegger replace it with just a slab of straight cement as he is suggesting we should have done with the Bay Bridge?" asks a Chronicle reader.

The old eastern Bay Bridge, in my opinion not as ugly as some people feel, was initially to be replaced by a simple "freeway on stilts"--nothing that would instill pride in the average Oaklander, Alameda-er, Emeryville-er, or Berkeley-er who has to see that thing every day; see also the San Mateo-Hayward, Dumbarton, and Benicia-Martinez Bridges. Later, a half-"freeway on stilts," half "world-class" suspension bridge, its single-tower design of questioned safety in light of seismic activity as well as terrorism, its self-anchored design untested for structures as large as the east Bay Bridge, would succeed the old steel, Douglas fir-piled, decidely out-of-date bridge, built on the basis that earthquakes were unavoidable acts of God, the safety of structures subjected to which being impossible to engineer.

Now, in order to cut costs, maybe we'll go back to the 100% stilts design. This would be unfortunate, considering the Bay Bridge's position as a Bay Area centerpiece connecting two of the region's most important cities. Shouldn't such an important bridge deserve an important, grand design? Well, maybe the new bridge is too important to wait for uncertain funds required by the single-tower design. Then again, maybe changing designs would cost way too much and the single-tower design would in fact be less expensive at this point. But if the old, steel eastern span was built during the worst of economic times, the Great Depression, couldn't something similar be built in 2004, during a kinda-bad recession?

(And how can it be that utilitarian design itself results in both a grand, complex, 1930s bridge and a completely unexciting, "brutalist," Twenty Hundreds bridge? Just a rhetorical question.)