A Decade’s Work: The Oakland Touchdown Marks the Final Phase of the New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
A decade after Flatiron and joint venture partners began work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Skyway, Flatiron crews are at work on a new contract that will finally connect the bridge to Oakland’s shore.
Flatiron completed the more than $1 billion Skyway project in 2008. The contract was one of 20 awarded to replace the entire eastern span of the bridge, which connects Oakland with Yerba Buena Island. The other half of the bridge, a gray steel suspension bridge, connects the island to San Francisco. The eastern span’s upper deck collapsed during a 1989 earthquake. The bridge quickly reopened, but the California Department of Transportation determined that a new bridge was needed. The new bridge is actually two parallel bridges with 10 lanes of traffic and four full- width shoulders. As one of the nation’s busiest bridges, it will be used by up to 280,000 vehicles daily.
Flatiron’s $30 million Oakland Touchdown project includes construction of the last 450 feet of cast-in-place, post-tensioned, box girder bridge that will connect the new eastern span of the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge to Oakland. Flatiron is also responsible for a mile of approach roadway, the traffic switch to the new bridge and building an access trestle.
“What’s really unique about this project is that it has such a high profile,” said Flatiron project manager Nick Reker. The public has been anticipating the opening of this project since the existing bridge was damaged more than 20 years ago.
“It’s a big project, and it’s a part of history,” added Danny Martinez, a third-generation pile driver and the pile driving foreman on the Touchdown project. “That makes it a lot more exciting.”
The new bridge and the Oakland Touchdown are both built with high-strength concrete and equipped with electrical service and seismic monitoring systems.
“The bridge has a 100-year design life—most bridges we build are only designed to last 50—and it has special signature architectural features,” said Nick.
Crews are in the early stages of construction, but they are already hard at work excavating, driving piles and constructing falsework. Once the project ramps up, Nick expects more than 50 Flatiron employees will be working full-time on this project.
“It’s going to start getting pretty busy around here,” said structures foreman Jerry Say, who has worked for Flatiron off and on for about ten years. “I can’t wait. We’re ready and excited.”
Because of the quality of the soil on the project, crews are driving extra long piles—some of the longest Flatiron has ever installed. The longest are 145 feet long, about 40 feet longer than is typical.
“Everything’s bigger,” explained Danny. “It’s like, I would imagine, switching from driving a compact car to an 18-wheeler. It’s the same concept, but different.”
The project was bid on price and schedule, which means crews have 140 days to build the touchdown.
“It’s going be full speed ahead as fast as we can possibly build the bridge,” said Nick. Crews will build the trestle, falsework and superstructure in the coming months.
The final piece of the project will be a big traffic switch, requiring a three-day closure. Flatiron will complete most of the work by the end of this year, but will wait until all other contracts are complete to construct the traffic switch. The final piece of the project involves 72 hours of continuous work, but will ultimately open the bridge to the public.
“So we get to take all the glory for everybody else’s work on the last day,” joked Nick.
The project is scheduled to open on Labor Day, 2013.