On Monday, September 2, 2013 the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge opened to vehicular traffic, thus ending the 240,000 cars per day load to the historic, James “Sunny Jim” Rolph Bridge, east of Yerba Buena Island. In 2009, in anticipation of the new bridge, we proposed to repurpose, rather than destroy, the then to be abandoned bridge and imagined The Bay Line— an aerial garden, which would include housing, recreational and cultural facilities connected to a continuous, lushly planted, green strip, floating above the water as the region’s newest park through which you could walk and wander and enjoy the most spectacular views of the bay. The project garnered much attention, and our week-long charrette, which was was intended to re-think how unused infrastructure can be transformed into social infrastructure for the public good, received both criticism and praise.
Today, however, the new bridge still lies in the shadow of the abandoned span and new questions arise. Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said the current cost forecast for the demolition project is $233.7 million and will take about three years. Previous predictions of the cost of the bay bridge project were unpredictable, resulting in the bridge being several billion dollars over budget and many years behind schedule, so there is good reason to at least imagine what other possibilities might exist for the abandoned structure.
If we compare the $233.7 million for the demolition to the cost of perhaps the most famous infrastructural reuse project, The High Line, the total cost of Section 1 and 2 of The High Line was $152.3 million. The design and construction of the currently opened area cost $86.2 million. Funding for the project came from multiple sources: $112.2 million from the City, $20.3 million from the Federal Government, $400,000 from the State, $44 million raised by the Friends of the High Line.
Does the possible investment in social infrastructure outweigh the cost associated with demolishing the bridge? reTHINK Bay Bridge is a group, comprised of Rael San Fratello Architects (Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello), Frederic Schwartz Architects (Frederic Schwartz) and architect Marc L’Italien who will continue to re-think the future of the Bay Bridge.