Friday, September 6, 2013

Nice Shade of Lipstick on that Pig

Now that the Bay Area is waking up to the fact the new bridge has done nothing to improve the traffic bottleneck that exists between the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, California woe be to the politicians that sold us this slab of bacon. The goal of traffic improvements, especially those that cost $6.5 billion dollars, is to improve traffic, yes? Don’t you think? 

Same as before - Count them
Yes, I was living in San Francisco when the Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the Bay Area (I was at Candlestick, truly we were). I watched the damaged Embarcadero Freeway torn down giving the city a whole new waterfront thus making the Giants ballpark viable and even the Mission Bay Area more accessible and better access to the core of the city immediately to the north. All these were strong positive answers to the mugging old Mother Earth gave northern California.

Two politicians, when they saw the concept for the replacement span, said NO! The old erector set of a bridge called the cantilever section needed replacing; that was the part of the seven mile span that failed during the quake. A beautiful clean concrete span was proposed to sweep up to Yerba Buena Island and then across the suspension span. Jerry Brown (then Oakland mayor and now California governor), and Willie Brown, (then San Francisco mayor and now glad-handing political sharpie) said, “Hold on, aren’t we the Bay Area? Don’t we deserve something better?” Chagrined and chastised CalTrans and the engineering community said “Alright,” and with typical California haste and waste pinned the redesign on the wall, received mayoral blessings, and with the help of China with steel and prefab parts gave us “The Bridge.” And it only took 25 years.

It fixed nothing. Not one lane was added and not an iota of improvement to the commute and the physical connection between San Francisco and Oakland. There were dreamers who said this bridge would do great things for the tourist trade and the regional transit trade, not! Sure they added breakdown lanes and a bikeway to nowhere, the lights are very cool, and yes you will no longer feel as though you are in some steampunk ride at Disneyland offered by the old cantilever section from San Francisco to Oakland. All for the better, except it’s not. There is a desperate need for some type of traffic stent to open up the east to west traffic and it will never be the Bay Bridge. 

Frank Lloyd Wright's Version -  1949

New Call for the Mid-Bay Crossing
Numerous studies, some going back almost a hundred years, cite the need for a mid-bay crossing somewhere between the two opposing airports of SFO and Oakland. Environmentalists immediately throw a fit and rouse their rabble to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Bay mud and the inevitable environmental Armageddon it would cause (witness the battle to add desperately needed runways at SFO). But this cross-bay connection would have profound and significant impacts on the artery that is the Bay Bridge. So much of the daily bridge travel passes through San Francisco and Oakland that only goes to other parts of the Bay Area a daily thrombosis develops straining the system.

Regional planning groups (ABAG et al) are demanding more density, more vertical construction, more housing, more jobs, more everything all to be forced into the urban core. When traffic is cited as a real problem for this utopian dream their answer is free bikes, free Muni transit, free BART, free bridge tolls. However, there is no free lunch.

This new east/west connection could carry a tremendous volume of almost everything. Traffic lanes obviously – probably five each way, a bike system that connects both sides of the bay, it could also carry BART trains reducing the downtown impacts in San Francisco (also a point of serious blockage throughout the whole BART system - one dead train here kills the system and makes the airports inaccessible). The current bridge carries more than 270,000 vehicles a day, if even 25% could be diverted it would be like adding lanes to the current bridge system. Environmentalists love to point out the lost hours (as if they really care) due to congestion and thrombosis, not to mention the yuck thrown into the air as these cars sit idling waiting for their turn on the ride. Yet if magically every one of these cars could instantly change to electric nothing would change, it still would clog up and in time be even worse
Tappan Zee Bridge Option
This bypass and mid-bay connection must be reconsidered for the long term growth and sustainability (I really hate that useless term) of the Bay Area. Consider the impacts on areas near SFO airport and the increase in densities and development nearer to Silicon Valley. Consider the increased development in and around Oakland’s airport. Both landing areas at each end are flat and eminently redevelopable and have main BART lines nearby. All that is needed is the will to move forward. We changed the direction of the replacement bridge by the whim of a mayor or two; why not take into consideration the Bay Area resident for a change.

Stay Tuned . . . . . . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment