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Bay Bridge Info

FAQs

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why was the new East Span of the Bay Bridge built?

A: The Bay Bridge has undergone a major seismic retrofit, which has also brought it up to current transportation standards where feasible. Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which damaged a section of the East Span, extensive studies were undertaken to determine whether the state’s largest bridges were seismically safe.

As a result of these studies, it was determined that the entire bridge required seismic safety improvements. The San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge (West Span) required seismic retrofit work; for the Oakland side of the bridge (East Span), the most cost-effective solution required the complete replacement of the existing span. Seismic safety work on the West Approach to the bridge in San Francisco involved completely removing and replacing a one-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and three on- and three off-ramps.

How much will the new East Span cost?

A: The estimated cost for the new Bay Bridge (East Span) is $6.416 billion. This amount does not include program contingencies. Project costs are evaluated quarterly.

How is the new Bay Bridge being financed?

A: Assembly Bill (AB) 144, which was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on July 18, 2005, provides a comprehensive financial plan for the Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program, including the consolidation and financial management of all toll revenues collected on state-owned bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area under the jurisdiction of the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA). 

When will the new Bay Bridge be complete?

A: The Bay Bridge achieved seismic safety when it opened to traffic on September 2, 2013. However, work continues: Construction for the bicycle/pedestrian path, lighting, and permanent on-ramps and off-ramps on Yerba Buena Island is ongoing in order to complete the bridge.

Why did it take so long to finish the seismic safety work?

A: The seismic safety work on the Bay Bridge encompassed multiple projects. Each one of these projects was extremely complex. The East Span of the bridge was seismically upgraded through the complete replacement of the existing span. This involved multiple projects, including the construction of a 1.2-mile Skyway; a Self-Anchored Suspension span consisting of a 525-foot tower supporting a bridge deck connecting the Skyway to the Yerba Buena Island Transition Structure on Yerba Buena Island (YBI); and the Oakland Touchdown, the east end of the bridge connecting to the toll plaza.

One of the greatest challenges in performing any seismic safety work on the Bay Bridge was that traffic must be kept moving. This required the construction of temporary structures and shifting of traffic from the existing bridge to the temporary structures. Major construction and demolition work was often scheduled during nights and weekends in order to minimize disruption to commute-hour traffic. This elaborate scheduling extended the length of time that it took to complete the seismic safety work.

Why is the bridge going to continue to feature double decks on the West Span (between San Francisco and YBI), but be reconfigured on the East Span (between YBI and Oakland) to feature side-by-side decks?

A: When it became evident that a new East Span was required following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the community indicated that it preferred a bridge that provided more expansive views and a more open feeling. The available right-of-way (space in which to build) in San Francisco limits the options for the West Span to a double-deck structure. Both decks of the West Span have been heavily reinforced, and an independent column was added to support each deck on the West Approach.

Will the bridge be safe during an earthquake?

A: The criteria for building a new East Span of the bridge is that following a major earthquake, the bridge can quickly reopen to traffic. The Bay Bridge is designated as an emergency “lifeline” route to be used in disaster response activities.

When engineers design structures to resist earthquakes, they use “rock motions” to help them calculate the maximum seismic forces that the structure may experience; they then design the structure to resist these forces. Rock motions are the vibrations that travel through the bedrock caused by the slipping of an earthquake fault.

Seismologists develop the rock motions based on the structures location in relation to earthquake faults and historical and geotechnical site data. The new East Span has been designed to withstand rare seismic events. Specifically, the span has a 1,500-year return period. This is defined as the largest rock motions expected to occur at the bridge site once every 1,500 years.

Is the Bay Bridge the only Bay Area bridge that has undergone a seismic retrofit?

A: The California Department of Transportation has completed retrofits on four other major Bay Area bridges: the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Carquinez Bridge, and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, as well as numerous, smaller state-owned overcrossings, undercrossings and interchanges that comprise the highway network. Caltrans also completed seismic retrofits for the Antioch Bridge and the Dumbarton Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is undergoing a seismic retrofit, which is being managed by the Golden Gate Highway, Bridge and Transportation District.

How do I find out about closures, detours and traffic delays?

A: Detailed information on upcoming construction impacts can be found on the home page of this website. For current traffic conditions and driving times, please call 511 or visit 511.org.

What will happen to the original East Span?

A: Now that traffic has been safely rerouted on to the new East Span, the original East Span, including the cantilever and truss structures, will be demolished. Complete demolition, which is expected to total $239 million, will be divided into three parts: the cantilever section and S-curve, smaller trusses and then the foundation. The work, some of which will occur within close proximity of moving traffic, will be performed with great care, section-by-section. The demolition process will take approximately three years.

I’d like a piece of the original East Span. How can I get one?

A: Unfortunately, pieces of the original East Span are not available. The contractors who have been awarded the contract for the demolition will take ownership of bridge components.

Is the bike and pedestrian path open?

A: A portion of the 15.5-foot wide bicycle/pedestrian path opened to the public at 12 p.m. on September 3, 2013. Before the pathway can fully connect to Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands, crews will need to demolish a portion of the existing bridge in order to build and connect the rest of the path to Yerba Buena Island. Once completed, the pathway will extend the 2.2 miles between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island.

Can I access the bicycle and pedestrian path from Yerba Buena Island?

A: No. The bicycle and pedestrian path is not connected to Yerba Buena Island yet. Before the pathway can fully connect to Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands, crews will need to demolish a portion of the existing bridge in order to build and connect the rest of the path to Yerba Buena Island. Once completed, the pathway will extend the 2.2 miles between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island.

How do I get to the bicycle and pedestrian path? When is it open?

A: The Bay Bridge bicycle/pedestrian path can be accessed from the following locations: (1) the Bay Trail in Emeryville or Oakland or (2) Burma Road/ Maritime Street in Oakland.  

The trail from Shellmound Street to Maritime Street is open 24/7.  The pathway along the bridge will be open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. until contractors complete the bike path. Upon completion, the entire Bay Bridge Trail will be open 24/7. Hours are contingent upon construction activities and are subject to change.

For detailed information about the bike/pedestrian path, including routes, parking, and public transit options, please visit the bike/pedestrian path web page.

I have a question about tolls and payments. Whom should I contact?

For questions related to Bay Bridge tolls, payments, violations, and tickets, please visit Fastrak’s FAQ page or call FasTrak at 877-229-8655.