Thursday, January 19, 2006

Carquinez Demolition Under Way

Carquinez Demolition Under Way
By MATTHIAS GAFNI, Times-Herald staff writer

THE ASPHALT DECK has been removed from the old Carquinez Bridge in preparation for its demolition. This view is from the Crockett side. Photo courtesy John Robinson

The demolition of the 1927 Carquinez Bridge is under way, and by mid-February crews may be ready to lower a third of the pioneering span onto barges, a Caltrans official said Wednesday.

The bridge, the oldest of the Bay Area's major spans, will be given a proper retirement ceremony around the same time, said Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus.

Those expecting a spectacular implosion may be disappointed with the painstakingly controlled $15 million project planned.

"It's a lot like reverse engineering. In a lot of ways it's as hard as building a bridge," Haus said. "You can't just hit it with a sledgehammer and knock stuff down."

In other words, this will be no Las Vegas casino blown to bits.

"Number one, there are two bridges right next to it with active traffic. So there are major safety concerns with that," Haus said. "There are also concerns with wildlife in the Bay."

Ironworkers originally painted the steel truss bridge, which connects Vallejo with Crockett, with toxic lead-based paints. "They have to be collected and disposed of very carefully," Haus said.

Crews will use industrial vacuums to keep paint dust and flakes from nearby communities.

"There's a very strict process to go through," Haus said.

Workers began to prepare the 1927 bridge for demolition in November, shortly after eastbound traffic was diverted back onto the neighboring 1958 span. Vehicles briefly were detoured onto the old bridge while the 1958 span received a new deck.

Deck removed

So far, crews have basically torn the asphalt deck off the 1927 span and begun to remove rivets, Haus said.

Once prepped, the major work will begin.

In mid-February, Caltrans is planning a retirement ceremony for the bridge, including elected officials and some ironworkers who worked on the bridge. In 2004, the new Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge, a suspension span to the west of the 1927 bridge, received a large opening day celebration.

The retirement party will coincide with the lowering of the eastern truss, the section of the bridge on the Vallejo side. Hydraulic jacks will lower it onto awaiting barges in Carquinez Strait, the reverse of how the bridge was built, Haus said. It will take many hours to lower one section, he said.

In March, Caltrans plans to lower the western truss, Haus said.

Caltrans engineers estimate the entire bridge structure will be totally removed by the end of 2006.

Rainy weather could alter those estimates, Haus said. It already has slowed the demolition. Caltrans originally planned the bridge's retirement ceremony for this week, he said.

Once the trusses are removed, three towers and their piers will then be disassembled as well, ending in September 2007, Haus said.

Portions of the bridge, which was first dedicated on May 27, 1927, will be donated to the Crockett Historical Society, Caltrans Museum in Oakland. A piece will become part of the bridge overlook along the Alfred Zampa span's Crockett pathway.

"It's been there a long time," Haus said. "People are sad to see it go. They aren't the only ones sad to see it go; so are we."

- E-mail Matthias Gafni at or call 553-6825.

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