A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013

A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013

by Stephen Mikesell


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A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013 by Stephen Mikesell

A Tale of Two Bridges is a history of two versions of the San Francisco—Oakland Bay Bridge: the original bridge built in 1936 and a replacement for the eastern half of the bridge finished in 2013. The 1936 bridge revolutionized transportation in the Bay Area and profoundly influenced settlement patterns in the region. It was also a remarkable feat of engineering. In the 1950s the American Society of Civil Engineers adopted a list of the “Seven Engineering Wonders” of the United States. The 1936 structure was the only bridge on the list, besting even the more famous Golden Gate Bridge. One of its greatest achievements was that it was built on time (in less than three years) and came in under budget. Mikesell explores in fascinating detail how the bridge was designed by a collection of the best-known engineers in the country as well as the heroic story of its construction by largely unskilled laborers from California, joined by highly skilled steel workers.

By contrast, the East Span replacement, which was planned between 1989 and 1998, and built between 1998 and 2013, fell victim to cost overruns in the billions of dollars, was a decade behind schedule, and suffered from structural problems that has made it a perpetual maintenance nightmare.

This is narrative history in its purest form. Mikesell excels at explaining highly technical engineering issues in language that can be understood and appreciated by general readers. Here is the story of two very important bridges, which provides a fair but uncompromising analysis of why one bridge succeeded and the other did not.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943859269
Publisher: University of Nevada Press
Publication date: 04/03/2017
Edition description: 1
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 1,300,770
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Stephen Mikesell is an historic preservation specialist and public historian living in Davis, CA. He is the former Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer for California. He is the author most recently of The Sierra Railway.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vi

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 3

1 Transportation in the Bay Area Before the Bay Bridge 9

2 How the Bay Bridge Was Planned in the 1920s 29

3 How the Bay Bridge Was Finally Approved: The Hoover-Young Commission 44

4 The Context of Great Bridges-Part 1: From the 1920s to the 1930s 61

5 How the Bay Bridge Was Designed: 1931 to 1933 70

6 How the Bay Bridge Was Built: The 1930s 88

7 What Happened to the Bay Bridge: From 1936 to the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake 109

8 A Repair Effort Becomes a Megaproject: The Decision to Replace the East Span of the Bay Bridge 119

9 The Context of Great Bridges-Part 2 134

10 Designing a Megaproject in Public 140

11 Everything That Can Go Wrong… 154

Conclusion 177

Bibliography 195

About the Author 201

Index 203

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