Old Bay Bridge ends will soon be repurposed as public parks for Oakland & San Francisco

As someone who was living in Pinellas County, Florida back when the old Sunshine Skyway bridge was demolished and the new one built, I (Storm) can attest to the wisdom of repurposing all of part of old bridges.

Old Skyway pier. Photo: Florida State Parks.

Some old bridges are kept in their entirety and repurposed from vehicles to pedestrians. The April 1, 2018 issue of Revitalization News had this article about just such a project in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Such projects are often perfect examples of the 3Re Strategy in action: they repurpose old infrastructure, renew it to serve that new purpose, and use it to reconnect the community (either reconnecting neighborhoods, or reconnecting people with their water.)

Chattanooga’s Walnut Street Bridge. Normally packed, it was temporarily closed at the time of this photo by Storm Cunningham.

This has had a wonderfully revitalizing effect on places like Chattanooga, Tennessee (the Walnut Street Bridge) and Sydney, New South Wales (the Pyrmont Bridge over Darling Harbour).

Other times, the entire expanse can’t be saved, usually due to ship navigation issues. Such was the case with the Sunshine Skyway.

But long expanses of both ends of the old bridge became part of the Florida State Park system, and are enjoyed by thousands of joggers, bicyclists and fisherpersons daily.

Something similarly wonderful is in the process of happening in Oakland, California, where four piers from the eastern span of the old Bay Bridge will live on as a public boardwalk and vista point in Oakland, and on Yerba Buena Island (on the San Francisco side.)

Sydney’s Pyrmont Bridge.
2015 photo by Storm Cunningham.

Hailed as a “once-in-100-years opportunity” to give the public access to bay waters, transportation officials agreed in January of 2018 to save the piers from demolition.

On the Oakland side, the piers will be reused as part of a larger park project that has long been planned as part of the redevelopment of the Bay Bridge.

This park will be an international destination because it’s one of the few places you can actually get out into the bay,” said East Bay Regional Parks General Manager Bob Doyle. “You’ve got the port ships coming right by to watch, and the ferries used to come from this spot, so it’s got a lot of transportation history that’s really incredible.”.

The original Bay Bridge project environmental document and resource agency permits included removing all marine based piers of the old Bay Bridge east span.  At the April 2017 and August 2017 TBPOC meeting, the TBPOC members confirmed a decision to not demolish shoreline marine piers E2, E19‐22 as part of ongoing CMGC construction pier removal and to begin the process for an environmental enhancement for public access facilities instead of demolition along both the YBI shoreline and Oakland shoreline.

Upon the August 2017 TBPOC review of draft cost and the tasks schedule to complete the project in 2018, the project team began public discussions with stakeholders, contractor, and resource agencies responsible for permit approval and environmental document re/validation to timely design and include the environmental enhancement in the project (versus a separate project document adding 2‐4 years to complete).

Various public access options were then designed and discussed with stakeholders to consider a beneficial and useful public access facility at each location including widths between 15‐35 feet, various lengths, structure type, constructability, cost, maintenance, ownership, public usage and basic aesthetics ideas.

The $52 million project will cost slightly more than demolishing the piers, an incremental expense on an already pricey project that will yield big benefits, says Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s regional transportation planner.

A 2018 construction completion is expected.

All Bay Bridge renderings courtesy of CalTrans.

See article by Erin Baldassari in the San Jose Mercury News.

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