New Bay Bridge East Span:

Massive Foundation Piece Passes Through Panama Canal

Perched on the deck of the Lucky Logger barge, the East Span footing box makes its way through the Panama Canal.

Published: March, 2007 

An enormous component of the new East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge ó equivalent in size to a basketball court ó recently crossed through the Panama Canal en route to its final destination in the San Francisco Bay.

Fabricated in Corpus Christi, Texas, by Kiewit Offshore Services, the steel footing box was so large that transport by land was out of the question, and shipping by barge via the Canal was the only feasible option. It will provide the framework for the final marine foundation (known as T1) of the new East Spanís crowning element, the self-anchored suspension span (referred to as the SAS), which will feature a striking 525-foot tower. When completed, the SAS will be the largest single-tower, self-anchored suspension span in the world.

The shipment of this critical portion of the last marine foundation for the SAS represents a major milestone for the new Bay Bridge, said Will Kempton, chairman of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee (TBPOC). It represents the last major construction element of the final marine foundation for the bridgeís signature span. When the foundations have been completed in about a year, work will begin on construction of the tower.

The steel footing box is expected to cross through the Golden Gate and arrive at the construction site in mid-March. After being lifted into place by a special catamaran barge designed specifically for the project, it will be welded to the steel shells surrounding 13 concrete piles. The piles, which were driven using a multistory footing template, extend 196 feet below the waterline to anchor in bedrock. The entire steel footing box will then be encased in concrete to make up the tower foundation, which will measure 85 feet long, 73 feet wide and 21 feet thick ó and weigh 2,100 tons.

Work on the other marine foundation for the SAS, to the east of T1, is nearing completion. This foundation (referred to as E2) consists of twin steel and concrete structures to support the separate east- and west-bound road decks of the SAS. Work on the marine foundations is anticipated to be completed in 2008. The land foundation for the spanís western end, where the single main cable loops under the roadbed, was completed in 2004.

As work heats up on the SAS, crews are putting finishing touches on the East Spanís Skyway portion, whose twin decks now jut a mile out into the Bay and stand ready to join with the SAS.

The East Span project is being overseen by the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, which in addition to Caltrans includes representatives from the California Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority, an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

All photos by Noah Berger