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2 pieces of new Bay Bridge make delta journey; 610-ton concrete building blocks are part of the viaduct portion of eastern span

July 23, 2004 Reposted from the San Francisco Chronicle
  By Michael Cabanatuan


Hank and Bonne Leibee, a retired couple from San Leandro, spent about two
hours and $73 Thursday to watch part of the new Bay Bridge float by.

Two wing-shaped concrete chunks -- weighing as much as 610 tons apiece
-- are the first of 452 building blocks that will make up the deck of the
concrete viaduct portion of the new Bay Bridge's eastern span. The new
bridge will consist of two parts: 1.4 miles of side-by-side concrete
viaducts and a 1, 860-foot single-tower suspension span.

The bridge segments are being cast in a 45-acre yard at the Port of
Stockton, and will be shipped to the bridge construction site just north of
the current east span over the next two years. Each segment stands about 4
to 5 stories tall, is wide enough to hold five 12-foot lanes of traffic and
10- foot-wide shoulders, and is about 26 feet long.

The Leibees heard about the maiden voyage on the radio Thursday morning and
decided to head to Dead Fish, a seafood restaurant in Crockett with a
cliff-side panoramic view of the Carquinez Strait. About 3 p.m.,
conveniently after the Leibees finished a leisurely lunch, a bottle of wine
and dessert, the barge forged its way under the Carquinez Bridge, pushed by
one tugboat and preceded by another.

The light gray concrete pieces sat astride the long black barge -- one at
the front and one at the rear. From the patio of the restaurant, looking
down at the water, the future bridge segments didn't look very big,
particularly compared to the cargo ships that often ply the bay waters.

"We were waiting for this gargantuan thing to come by,'' said Bonne Leibee,
"but it's not the length of a span (between bridge support piers), it's the

The Leibees also had expected more fanfare for what is a milestone in the
construction of the new span.

"We thought maybe there would be this big Coast Guard escort and news
helicopters flying overhead,'' she said. "But we were the only people in the
restaurant who came to see it. We kept saying 'Any minute, any minute.' I
think people thought we were nuts.''

Crews at the Stockton precast yard used a giant straddle carrier crane to
move the bridge sections from a storage area known as "the boneyard" to the
barge Wednesday. They began their voyage through the delta about 7 a.m.
Thursday, and passed under the Antioch Bridge just about noon.

A dozen or so observers rushed to the end of a nearby fishing pier to snap
photos of the bridge pieces.

"I didn't even know what it was,'' said Aaron Washington, an Antioch
resident who was fishing for striped bass.

In the next five hours, they passed under the Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez
and Richmond-San Rafael bridges before anchoring in the middle of the bay,
north of the Bay Bridge. Today, the concrete pieces will be moved into the
construction zone, near the eastern side of the bridge.

And Monday, they'll be lifted onto bridge piers using a specially
manufactured hoist, and joined with two deck pieces that were cast in place
at the eastern end of the new span. Once in place, they'll be connected
with steel cables and a special extra-strength epoxy between each segment.

Caltrans officials had once planned to publicize the arrival of the first
bridge sections, but officials with KFM, the three-contractor joint venture
building the 1.4-mile twin-concrete viaduct section of the span, didn't want
the attention for the first of what could be as many as 230 Stockton-to-
Oakland voyages.

They didn't even notify Caltrans of the journey, said agency spokesman Mark
DeSio, though word was leaked to a Stockton newspaper and a San Francisco
television station.

"I can't believe we were the only ones here to see this,'' said Bonne
Leibee, back at the Crockett restaurant.

But the lack of fanfare and the less-than-towering stature of the concrete
bridge chunks didn't diminish the Leibees' enthusiasm.

"The weather was perfect, the food was good, they were very hospitable
here,'' said Hank Leibee. "And we did see it.''

E-mail Michael Cabanatuan at [email protected].


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