San Francisco by the Bay Bridge Click on thumbnail to enlarge image, view caption and use slideshow options. To return to this page click on the image background This set of images was made on two early morning walks centred on a small area on the western shore of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Walking west on The Embarcadero from the Market Street trolley I passed this reflection on the entrance doors to a law firm that includes maritime interests in its portfolio. I wanted to look at the Bridge, two particular buildings and two once busy but now decaying shipping piers.Architecture and bridge engineering converge, the surprisingly slender twin suspension cables angling down to their massive street-level Beale Street anchorage vaults just off-image. The Art Deco referenced “Portside I & II” apartment blocks were designed by HKS Architects in the 1990s and sited in close alignment with the bridge deck that crosses the space between them.The California gold rush of 1849 and the completion of the first transcontinental to San Francisco railroad by the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroads in 1869 encouraged westward migration. The railroad companies were a powerful force in the west and operated many of the ferries linking their Oakland termini to The Embarcadero landing. By the 1930s all the ferries docking there handled some 250,000 daily passengers.A number of piers hosting boat and ferry traffic survive on The Embarcadero as does the fine1898 Ferry Building designed by Arthur Page Brown. Its restoration completed in 2003 maintains some earlier ferry functions as well as housing office space and an upmarket food and farmers’ marketplace in the main hall. The twelfth century Girelda bell tower of Seville Cathedral in Spain influenced the style of Brown’s tall clock tower design.The 1929 Wall Street Crash and the recession that followed seemed a remarkable time for one city to simultaneously construct the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Construction began on both in 1933 with the former finished late in 1936 and the other six months later in 1937. Only the Golden Gate Bridge provided walkers and cyclists with an incredible sidewalk crossing but they will be able to travel the new Bay Bridge East Spans from 2013.The first proposal for a bridge across the Bay came in 1851 when William Walker, the editor of the City’s Herald newspaper, proposed a causeway and pontoon bridge. In 1869 the eccentric Joshua Norton, self-styled Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, decreed that a bridge should be built. A subsequent proposal for a railroad causeway and lifting bridges failed for technical and political reasons.In 1906 the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a trestle across the shallow South Bay narrows. To the north, the Dumbarton Bridge of 1927 was the first vehicular crossing. The first, largely trestle, San Mateo Bridge across the South Bay opened in 1929 and was replaced in 1967. The 1927 Carquinez cantilever road bridge was designed to be earthquake-proof and crossed the narrows at the very northern end of the Bay: it was replaced and dismantled in 2007.In 1928 the California State Legislature, with Federal backing, authorised the California Toll Bridge Authority to construct a bridge linking Oakland to San Francisco through Yerba Buena Island. The twin-decked bridge would be 8.4 miles long, with an additional 4 miles for approach roads. Charles Purcell, the Chief Highways Engineer, oversaw planning before the American Bridge Company began construction in May 1933.The 10,176 feet long eastern section included a steel double cantilever bridge (Image 17) spanning 1,400 feet and some 191 feet above a narrow and deep channel off Yeruba Island. One of its towers goes down through 70 feet of water and 170 feet of mud to reach hard clay and sand substrate, the deepest at that time and a considerable technical challenge.The cantilever span is linked to the Oakland shore by five truss spans and a 14-section truss deck causeway across shallow water (Image 17). Additional dry land spans linked it to a 1,700’ long tunnel, 75’ wide and 56’ high that cuts through the Yeruba Island rock to connect with the western suspension spans.Pier 28 and Pier 26 beyond both have elegantly curved detailing (Image 08) to their Embarcadero facades in marked contrast to the decaying buildings they front. Here, the doors and mooring bollards hint at the activity that must once have been commonplace when this whole area was devoted to shipping and associated industry.Early 1930s photographs show the Matson Navigation Company’s fast trans-Pacific luxury liners moored here, their bright white hulls supported black-capped yellow funnels. The 1927 S.S. Malalo was the first and sailed with the Company until sold in 1948. Apart from a short break around 1950, the larger and faster 18,000 tons S.S. Monterey of 1932 continued in Matson service until 1973, and as a cruise ship with other owners until 1994.Closest to the Bridge, the timber clad Pier 26 carries peeling paint and graffiti. Early 1930s photographs show 1930s façade on The Embarcadero lettered ‘American-Hawaiian Steamship Co. – The Panama Canal Line’. They also show the working buildings on the Pier behind, and its neighbour, in their structural white-painted prime. Photographs of the bridge under construction show the Bay and many piers busy with ferries and merchant shipping.Two combined suspension bridges link Yeruba Island to the Embarcadero: their central spans measure 2,310 feet and each side span reaches 1,160 feet. At its highest point the deck is some 216 feet above water level. The bridges meet at a double anchorage tower built on rock under 100 feet of water and plus another 100 feet of mud. The scale and difficulty of the engineering task was unprecedented.Similarly, the four steel towers rest on piers breaking the surface but built through water and mud to the underlying rock with one reaching a greater depth than the central anchorage. The two outer towers stand at 474 feet but are overtopped by the central pair at 516 feet.The original bridge deck had six lanes for cars, three in each direction. The lower deck had two train tracks and three lanes for trucks operating on variable flow directions. In 1958 all upper lanes became westbound whilst the lower level rail tracks were removed and six lanes of traffic moved eastbound Over the years maintenance, repairs, and upgrading have all made changes to the strength and the detailed appearance of the bridge.In 2013, traffic will transfer to the new side-by-side concrete spans and a single tower self anchored suspension bridge linking Yeruba Island to the Oakland shore. Here, the new bridge stands at a lower level behind the current bridge but the early work on the replacement for the cantilever bridge is out of sight. On the Island, the parallel roadways will converge on to the upper and lower decks of the tunnel and West Spans.Huge container ships move in from the Pacific under the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges on their way to the container terminal on the Oakland shore. Here, the cranes and vessels are backlit by the early morning sun. Riding the small Oakland ferry from the Embarcadero makes on feel like royalty reviewing the fleet as it sails past a line of these huge ships moored under the transporter cranes on the quayside.